Anastasia Cunningham, News Coordinator
Sector leaders reveal high expectations for next contractor general
Though disagreeing on whether outgoing Contractor General Greg Christie had the right approach to the job, sector leaders have declared that fearlessness such as his will be an essential factor for whoever takes over his post after next month.
On November 30, Christie's seven-year tenure as the highly publicised, controversial, confrontational, ferocious and sometimes dramatic contractor general comes to an end.
With the governor general, prime minister and opposition leader now actively pursuing a replacement, many are anticipating what the new candidate will bring to the table.
In positing their expectations, private sector, civil society and church leaders were adamant that the selection process be transparent, with a selection committee set up and the qualifications and expectations clearly stated, which, they believe, would inspire public confidence.
Must be incorruptible
"We need someone who is incorruptible and who has the ability to command the respect of the Jamaican people. The ideal candidate should have a grasp of legal and procurement issues," noted Christopher Zacca, president of the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica.
A candid Francis Kennedy, president of the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce (JCC), argued Christie's approach was not conducive to growth and investment, and cannot be continued if the country is to move forward. He, therefore, called for all the regulations for the contractor general to be reviewed and revised.
"To give an example of some of the issues being faced, the public conflict between the contractor general and the Contracts Commission has posed a big problem," Kennedy said, noting that some JCC members have singled it out as the main factor in the 80 per cent fall in the construction industry.
"We can't just have two bullheads fighting each other and the whole construction industry is held to ransom," he said. "The contractor general should be facilitating growth and investment and not trying to block it, because the perception out there is that he is blocking it."
He added: "I know he is chasing corruption but I don't know that everything that he chases is corrupt. The office must be able to balance facilitating growth and investment, while at the same time continue to minimise corruption. Without that we can't pay our bills as a country."
Donald Reece, former Archbishop of Kingston, on the other hand, is not opposed to Christie's style, and in fact wants "more teeth" to be given to the contractor general's office. This, he believes, would eliminate issues such as the frequent public confrontations that have been know to occur between the office and the director of public prosecutions.
"As far as I'm concerned, I've always wished we had more Greg Christies in public office. Yes, maybe some of the moves he has taken in the past may not have been the most diplomatic, but then again some people don't appreciate diplomacy and therefore you probably need to have a pit bull around," Reece told The Gleaner.
"We need a pit bull kind of person in that office, who will hang on to something and not let go, someone who is fearless and bold."
The archbishop noted that that type of approach is critical to minimising corruption.
"When you have corruption, democracy and the unity of the country suffer and the best expertise that you have does not come to the surface because you will then not be recognising merits, but who you know," he added.
Keep public aware
Carol Narcisse, chairperson for the Jamaica Civil Society Coalition, agrees, stating that Christie has set the bar very high for the way in which a watchdog institution should discharge its function so that the public is kept quite aware in a fearless and fair manner.
"We have had the good fortune of excellent persons in the Office of the Contractor General since its inception. What Greg Christie has brought, though, is a level of transparency, of public disclosure and accountability that we had not seen before and have now become accustomed to and therefore expect to observe in the future," she said.
"Therefore, there is an expectation that the level at which the office now functions will continue and be improved upon."
In supporting Christie's approach, Pastor Everett Brown, president of the Jamaica Union Conference of Seventh-Day Adventists, strongly believes the contractor general must be dispassionate in carrying out his duties and continue to fight corruption.
"The new contractor general must be fearless, independent in his thinking and wherever corruption exists, take hold of them and refer them to the relevant authorities for them to act," stated Brown.
The Reverend Karl Johnson, general secretary of the Jamaica Baptist Union, would prefer a candidate who brings his own style to the job.
"I don't want a Christie reincarnate, I want someone who brings who they are in the pursuit of excellence. Yes, every successor must remember that they are standing on the shoulders of those that have gone before them, but they have a responsibility to bring who they are in the execution of the job," Johnson declared.
"However, that person must bring to the office vigilance, watchfulness, competence, sensitiveness, boldness without necessarily being confrontational, a stick-to-itiveness to see each probe through to the end, and an openness to team work with all the key stakeholders."
Outside of an expectation of the critical factors of transparency, collaboration and a clear outline of the process of selection and the way in which the office will operate, Brian Pengelley, president of the Jamaica Manufacturers' Association, said he would wait to see the scope that would be presented to improve the situation before commenting further.