Thu | Feb 20, 2020

Christie is back! - Loved and hated, corruption czar returns to throne

Published:Thursday | February 13, 2020 | 12:27 AMEdmond Campbell/Senior Staff Reporter
Greg Christie, the new executive director of the Integrity Commission.
Greg Christie, the new executive director of the Integrity Commission.

The man who once declared that the fight against corruption was not a “ballroom dance” but a battle that could not be fought by the “weak or faint of heart” has been appointed to a key position in the two-year-old Integrity Commission.

His recruitment coincides with heightened criticism of the oversight body’s perceived lukewarm performance and a slip in Jamaica’s rating on a global corruption index.

A reliable source told The Gleaner that there were serious concerns in the international funding community over the snail’s pace at which the commission was moving to establish a presence in the fight to cramp acts of corruption in the public sector.

Greg Christie, who was regaled by many for his fearless approach to fighting corruption while being criticised by politicians, public officials, and other detractors who labelled him as over-reaching, told The Gleaner yesterday that he was “humbled” and felt “great pride to have been offered the opportunity to serve my country” in the capacity of executive director.

The former contractor general said that he would hit the ground running on May 18 when his appointment takes effect.

“Once I am aboard, I will be committed to the objective of working, under the guidance and direction of its commissioners, to ensure that those mandates are effectively and dispassionately discharged in the interest of the people of Jamaica,” he said.

The executive director is responsible for the day-to-day management of the affairs of the Integrity Commission, to include the timely implementation of the decisions and directions of the commission and the submission of quarterly reports to the oversight body on each of the three divisions, among other things.

VAST EXPERIENCE

In a statement yesterday, the commission said that Christie, the outgoing director of the Integrity Commission of the Turks and Caicos Islands, would bring his “vast experience in the public, as well as private, sector to the anti-corruption investigative and prosecutorial body.

An attorney-at-law, Christie ruffled feathers and stirred anger among political figures during his tenure at the now-defunct Office of the Contractor General from 2005 to 2012.

When Christie walked away from the OCG in November 2012, he did not mince words at the time, stating that he had become despondent about the deafening silence “of our leaders, both within and without the political divide, and the vacuous absence of the political will that is now desperately required to decisively combat corruption in Jamaica”. These remarks were made in his final annual report to Parliament.

In his parting shot, Christie had bemoaned what he said were the harmful effects of corruption on a society that denied the poor access to basic entitlements such as water, electricity, roads, healthcare, housing, and education.

His message was blunt to his then detractors, who called him overzealous. Christie charged that they were either misguided or unenlightened.

His final exhortation in 2012 before his departure was that “the battle against corruption cannot be effectively led by leaders who are fearful or submissive or who are reluctant to offend or to confront those who must be confronted”.

Christie, whose fearless fist has written scathing reports about alleged acts of corruption while he headed the OCG, will now be subject to a gag order crafted in the Integrity Commission Act by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle in Gordon House.

The current chairman of the commission, retired justice Seymour Panton, had indicated at the commission’s inaugural press conference last year that he would be pushing for the oversight body to be unmuzzled.

Karl Samuda, minister with responsibility for information, told The Gleaner recently that he would “never support a return to what was transpiring under a former commission. I would not support that because I have seen the damage that has been done to people’s reputation, and so far, none of the facts have borne out the accusations or suggestions”.

He was responding to the question of whether the Government, through legislative amendment, would lift the Integrity Commission gag order, facetiously termed the Christie clause.

Samuda argued that the provision in the Integrity Commission Act that restricts the disclosure of investigations being conducted by the agency was seeking to “contain the process in a confidential manner and at the end of the examination, then the facts are laid bare”.

edmond.campbell@gleanerjm.com