Thu | Sep 21, 2017

Office of the Contractor General sets out to uplift young people

Published:Friday | November 18, 2016 | 11:00 AMKeisha Hill
Harrison

The Office of the Contractor General (OCG), mindful of the role that education plays in the fight against corruption, has partnered with the United Kingdom's Department for International Development (DFID) in launching a youth engagement and awareness programme to foster transparency, accountability and integrity in both public and private life.

The series, to be undertaken over the 2016 to 2018 period, will be held under the theme 'The Fight Against Corruption Begins with You.' It is envisioned that the youth programme will educate and sensitise youth between the ages of 10 and 18 years on core ethical issues which concern matters of corruption, fraud and conflict of interest.

According to Contractor General Dirk Harrison, although the OCG's remit is restricted by law to matters of government contracting and procurement, the work which has been executed over the years from its unique vantage point has given rise to a recognised need to both educate and reorient the views, perceptions and societal norms which affect the youth.

"We passionately believe that any long-term and sustainable change will be driven by our future generation. As such, youth awareness and involvement is at the very foundation of the OCG's educational campaigns. The youth must be recognised as our future leaders who, if groomed to accept certain behaviour as social norms, will lead to the perpetuation of such behaviour. Therefore, if we can reach our youth, then they can stand up for change," Harrison said.

Among the initiatives included in the programme are educational campaigns at the preparatory, primary and high-school levels across the island; social media/technology engagements; commissioning of a survey programme assessment designed to measure views on corruption; the establishment of the anti-corruption youth assembly; a debate competition; and a song and jingle competition.

ENCOURAGE YOUNG PEOPLE

"The OCG believes that the interventions which we are embarking on will have a positive impact on our youth and our society. This is not to say that we are naive in thinking that the impact will be immediate, but if the very foundation on which the future of our society is dependent can be moulded to do and think ethically and be grounded in integrity, then Jamaica has a very good chance of changing how we think, how we are perceived and how we conduct our business processes," Harrison said.

Over the years, the OCG has recognised the DFID as a strategic partner that has supported their work and vision and has lent support to prior youth-oriented initiatives, such as the OCG's essay and poster competitions and youth fora.

Harrison sees the increased collaboration as a strengthening of a mutual interest in effecting fundamental change in the minds and perspective of citizens through the nation's youth.

For David Osborne, DFID country representative for Jamaica at the British High Commission, the organisation has a history of supporting Jamaica's fight against corruption, including supporting Jamaica's Major Anti-Corruption Agency and the Financial Investigation Division of the Ministry of Finance.

"We are supporting the OCG's campaign to educate, engage and inform youth on the issue of corruption. We are also providing technical assistance to help build the OCG's in-house capacity to deliver on its mandate to ensure that the public-sector procurement process delivers value to the Jamaican taxpayer, is merit based, is free from corruption, impropriety and irregularity, and is transparent, impartial, competitive, fair, efficient and effective," Osborne said.

Both entities hope that the public awareness campaign will build a greater understanding among Jamaica's youth of corruption, its causes and consequences, and encourage young people to mobilise and prevent corruption.

The OCG/DFID 'Fight Against Corruption Begins With You' campaign will be launched on Monday, November 21, at the Mona High School.

keisha.hill@gleanerjm.com