Shining a light on public sector energy contracts
THE EDITOR, Sir:
In a recent speech, Contractor General Dirk Harrison, warned that sustained economic growth in Jamaica would not be achieved and sustained until the political parties support their talk with serious anti-corruption action.
"If the same thing is being done over and over again, and you getting the same result, why is there no change?" he questioned.
He then went on to list a number of energy-sector projects and Programmes which have been mired by inefficiencies and ineffective governance. Some of these included the Light Bulb Programme, the dismissal of one former chair of the Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica over ethanol-related contracts, the 2011 LNG bidding process, the Trafigura case, and others.
I also went in search of other such issues and found some dating back to the 1980s with oil-lifting contractors.
Energy-sector contracts and programmes tend to be very complex and involve a number of layers. Usually, when the Public Sector becomes involved, they find themselves dealing with companies and individuals who have several more years' experience in the particular field, and as such, can negotiate from a position of strength.
The negotiations and bidding are some issues, but then comes the implementation and monitoring. If the suggestion by the National Integrity Action that the Caricel license is contributing to a fall in the corruption index of the country, then there is a real possibility that mismanagement of energy contracts in the past, may have led to similar outcomes.
Public-sector involvement in the energy sector has certainly seen an improvement in recent years, but Jamaica still needs to rethink its operations in this vital sector. As such, I urgently call on the prime minister to consider the establishment of an energy-sector compliance and oversight body, similar to ESET, but with a broader mandate. The country simply cannot afford a 'business as usual' approach, to this vital industry.
"If the same thing is being done over and over again, and you getting the same result, why is there no change?"
Bill O. Wright