Edmond Campbell, Senior Staff Reporter
Described by Governor General Sir Patrick Allen as a "gentle giant", the country's fifth contractor general, Dirk Harrison, yesterday made a solemn pledge to protect whistle blowers in the fight against corruption in Jamaica.
Harrison, who took the Oath of Allegiance and the Oath of Office at King's House yesterday, invited stakeholders and, by extension, the people of Jamaica to tell what they know about corrupt activities in government.
" ... The apparent corrupt seemed to have become more brazen, technologically savvy and determined to take the fight to law enforcement. I invite, therefore, my countrymen to tell us what you know and we'll take the fight to the corrupt," a calm but stern Harrison said.
"We must be prepared to be committed to do whatever it takes, or however long it takes to continue to renew and reshape our strategy in our fight against the abominable crime called corruption," Harrison declared after receiving his instrument of office from the governor general.
In his first appeal to lawmakers, the new contractor general invited them to "draft the appropriate protocols to allow the sharing of information between state agencies".
Responding to a query about the referral of Cabinet for criminal prosecution, to the director of public prosecutions (DPP), Harrison said he would not interfere with the process.
"My posture is that whatever has happened prior to the first of March 2013 I accept and endorse. I will abide by it. I am changing nothing ... . I will not interfere with any process that has already commenced," Harrison maintained.
In carrying out his mandate, Harrison said he would be utilising more provisions in the Contractor General Act. "For example, in terms of summoning people before the contractor general for the purpose of obtaining information."
He said his experience as a prosecutor in the Office of the DPP would help him to more effectively carry out his task in his new role.
Discussing plans to set up a single anti-corruption body comprising the Corruption Prevention Commission, the Integrity Commission and the Office of the Contractor General, Harrison said he endorsed the move.
The single anti-corruption body was mooted by former Contractor General Greg Christie.
Best under one umbrella
According to Harrison, it was best for all agencies of government and parliamentary commissions to work under one umbrella, noting that resources were sometimes unevenly distributed.
In his charge to the former prosecutor, the governor general noted that in a country that was perceived locally and internationally as being impacted by high levels of corruption, there was an onerous weight of responsibility on the post of contractor general.
"Jamaica will look to you and your team to ensure that corruption is reduced, or preferably, totally eliminated, thus enhancing our international profile. Jamaica will expect you to ensure that the public-sector contractual arrangements are transparent, above board and free from every hint of corruption," Sir Patrick insisted.
With a score of 3.3 out of 10, on a scale where one is most corrupt and 10 is clean, Sir Patrick said, "Our nation anticipates the day when Transparency International will positively report on our fight to free our country from corruption."
Harrison takes up his position on March 1.