The Office of the Contractor General (OCG) will remain as effective as a toothless bulldog unless politicians grant it power to prosecute, said outgoing watchdog Greg Christie, who on Tuesday also shot down criticism that he was perceived as overzealous.
The OCG can probe government dealings but depends on the director of public prosecutions to bring matters to trial.
Successive admistrations have paid little more than "lip service" to the request for prosecutorial authority, said the contractor general, who for seven years has taken a microscope to government dealings, no matter how unpopular.
His investigations have seen him butting heads with not only government officials but private sector entities that are often on the other end of the transactions.
"Without political will, the OCG will remain the toothless bulldog," Christie told the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica's (PSOJ) Chairman's Club Forum.
"But there is no question, however, that the OCG has pushed, and is still pushing, the envelope in terms of the effective and efficient discharge of its statutory mandates - at least to the extent that the laws by which it is circumscribed have allowed," he said.
The OCG's mandate involves ensuring that government contracts are awarded impartially, on merit, and in circumstances that do not involve impropriety or irregularity.
Earlier this month, Christie requested that Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller and Opposition Leader Andrew Holness clarify the role of his office in relation to its oversight for the award of government contracts, divestment of state assets, and the issuing of licences.
That request comes amid legal action initiated by the Omar Davies-led transport ministry seeking a declaration by the court on the parameters of the contractor's general's jurisdiction.
"Parliament has failed to grant to the contractor general the corresponding power to enable him to halt a government contracting process that is exhibiting signs of impropriety, irregularity or corruption, or to give to him the power to prosecute or to hold to account an offending public officer," said Christie.
"In a deliberate effort to fix these and several other structural impediments which have prevented the OCG from effectively discharging its statutory mandates, scores of remedial recommendations have been tabled by me before the executive and the legislative arms of the state."
Meantime, PSOJ President Chris Zacca hailed Christie as transformative.
"Despite the fact that his perceived intemperance and overzealousness have been criticised in various segments of society, there is no doubt that he has transformed the Office of Contractor General into a respected state agency and a strong anti-corruption institution that has contributed greatly to the well-being of the Jamaican society," said Zacca.
Sections of the political divide argue that Christie's unwavering approach has stymied billion-dollar contracts integral for development and employment.
But said Christie: "We have been forthright, aggressive and dispassionate in the execution of our mandates, for this is the only way that corruption, particularly in a corrupt, politically tribal and polarised country, can be effectively fought. Those who have, therefore, characterised my approach as being overzealous, or overreaching, have, unfortunately, been misguided."
Christie will demit office in November. Under his leadership, the OCG became vocal and strident in its watchdog activities.
Specifically, the OCG currently monitors approximately 11,000 government contracts each year. Christie said this compared with a maximum of 350 contracts per annum for the years preceding his appointment.
Also, in the past seven years, the OCG completed 58 special investigations, 40 enquiries and 24 audits. Christie said this compared to only two investigations during the three-year period which preceded his appointment.
He also initiated the quarterly contracts award filings by the country's 200 public bodies, which registered a 100 per cent compliance filing rate for the past 14 consecutive quarters, save for one period. At the outset, the highest compliance rate was a mere 13 per cent.
The improvement comes within the context of Jamaica's below-average ranking at some 3.3 out of 10 on Transparency International's Corruption Perception Index.
"In the circumstances, the destiny of the OCG, and whether and to what extent Jamaica will succeed, in the fight to secure probity, transparency, accountability and value for money in the award of its public contracts, and to root out the scourge of corruption from its midst, is a destiny which now lies firmly not within the hands of the OCG, but within the hands of the Government, our Parliament and, ultimately, in your hands - the hands of the Jamaican people," he philosophised.
"Make no mistake about it, the challenges and the problems that I have outlined above will remain for the OCG, and for my successor-in-office, as long as the OCG's many remedial recommendations to the state continue to be ignored."