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Continue fighting corruption

Published:Thursday | December 13, 2012 | 12:00 AM
Devon Dick

RECENTLY, JAMAICA received a failing grade based on Transparency International's Corruption Perception Index (CPI) for 2012. According to the scorecard, to get a 10 is a sign of being least corrupt, while a zero would be a sign of being most corrupt. Jamaica is among the 66 per cent and one of the 176 countries which scored below five.

The CPI is a measure of perceptions of public-sector corruption held by business leaders and non-resident analysts. The CPI does not capture the reality of corruption. In other words, the reality could be worse or better.

Jamaica has systemic corruption problems that are pervasive and popular. There is bribery, abuse of power, cronyism, nepotism and secret dealings. Therefore, to be successful in the fight against corruption public organisations and officials need to be more transparent and accountable, and stiff sanctions to those who are in serious breach.

Unfortunately, the fight against corruption has been focused on the process of selecting a contractor general. Some who think that Greg Christie, former contractor general, did a good job, want a different process to select the next contractor general, failing to recognise that approximately seven years ago, the governor general, prime minister and the leader of the opposition consulted and gave us Christie. Therefore, the existing process can deliver good persons. We would need to change the process if we believe that the present holders of the three offices are not as good as those of seven years ago, or we feel that we do not want someone similar to Christie. And worse, we could get another Christie and the perception of corruption remains the same. In fact, Christie has bemoaned being toothless in some crucial aspects.

focus on positives

What is needed is to recognise what Christie did very well, such as getting 100 per cent reporting compliance from government agencies, and to implement his suggestions which will improve the fight against corruption. The Office of the Contractor General's annual reports include many special investigations and the few that I have read appear to be well investigated. Persons should analyse them and show where there were weaknesses in investigation or analysis. Law students also should use them as case studies. There can be different interpretations of law but there are evidences that are clear. There has been change concerning the length of certification of registration for contractors. However, other changes are necessary. Going forward, it might be good to remind persons that an investigation does not mean someone is guilty. Additionally, Chevening Scholar Fitz Sawyers did postgraduate work on our tender process and concluded it is based on archaic British laws. So changes might be necessary in this area.

Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller pledged during the election campaign to strengthen the Office of the Contractor General. Therefore, we need to use this time to implement measures to be more successful in the fight against corruption.

support critical offices

Therefore, we should not do anything to undermine offices that can help with the fight against corruption. The response of the Electoral Commission of Jamaica (ECJ) to the findings of the auditor general is worrying. It would have been better if the EOJ had meet with the auditor general rather than hold a press conference. In addition, some of the arguments offered as to why the deputy director was paid against the Ministry of Finance's policy were not convincing. The ECJ's claim that the deputy director has a valid contract and it is not his fault is not the full story. Pointing out the breach is not the auditor general's fault, but her responsibility. So, whose fault is it? A public spat is not good!

What is needed is to respect and strengthen institutions in the fight against corruption.

Rev Devon Dick, PhD, is pastor of the Boulevard Baptist Church in St Andrew. He is author of 'The Cross and the Machete' and 'From Rebellion to Riot'. Send Comments to