EDITORIAL - Dirk Harrison and the burden of precedent

Published: Wednesday | February 27, 2013 Comments 0

We are certain that Mr Dirk Harrison understands the gravity of the role of contractor general which he assumes on March 1.

Mr Harrison, until recently a prosecutor in the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), takes the reins at a time when the perception, locally and internationally, of corruption in Jamaica remains high, even if there are few convictions to validate that overwhelming suspicion.

Global watchdog Transparency International rated Jamaica 3.3 out of 10 in its 2012 Corruption Perception Index, ranking the island 83rd out of 176 countries. In 2011, Jamaica had placed 86th out of 182 nations. This marginal improvement, in real terms, is of absolutely no value.

Jamaicans have been sceptical of, and cynical about, the machinery of government - that bureaucratic behemoth which often spoils the appetite of industry and development, whether by businesses or private citizens. It is common knowledge that Anancyism, cronyism and nepotism combine to grease palms and grease the wheels of productivity and throughput. Woe be unto those who don't have connections!

The upshot is that investors, here and abroad, may be lured by other opportunities where the hazard of institutionalised corruption is less likely to be a hindrance to building businesses and making money.

BEARING THE YOKE

Dirk Harrison must know that he has a heavy burden, but we are hopeful that his shoulders will prove to be sufficiently broad to bear the yoke.

His appointment comes in the wake of the departure of the controversial Mr Greg Christie, whose seven-year tenure was characterised by an arrogant but well-meaning boldness in the face of withering criticism from administrations both green and orange. In fact, few things united the People's National Party and Jamaica Labour Party than Greg Christie.

Mr Christie's detractors painted him as a bombastic spitfire who was an inhibitor to development. But this newspaper believes that Greg Christie breathed new life into the Office of the Contractor General (OCG), driving fear into errant contractors and others, and achieving 100 per cent filing of quarterly contract awards from public bodies.

Dirk Harrison ought not to be baited into trying to fill Mr Christie's shoes but define his own legacy. We expect him to be unwaveringly courageous in the face of criticism from government ministers and other officials who would rather he turn a blind eye to stipulations.

REFRAIN FROM MEDIA WAR

However, we would caution Mr Harrison not to become embroiled in a media war with his detractors but to use his prosecutorial competence, honed in the DPP's office, to profitable effect. His experience in evidence-gathering should prove a boon to the OCG, which has failed several times to convince the DPP to push ahead with prosecutions.

The new contractor general must also show himself to be his own man, and not a shrinking violet in the face of his former boss, DPP Paula Llewellyn. Indeed, we are heartened that Ms Llewellyn, according to a front-page story in yesterday's Gleaner, has given the reassurance that she would be willing to offer the OCG a fiat to prosecute some matters once they hurdled the threshold of viability.

We hope the prior relationship in the DPP's office might facilitate the necessary teamwork to secure more corruption convictions. A sceptical Jamaica needs more than huffing and puffing to be convinced that corruption has met its match.

The opinions on this page, except for the above, do not necessarily reflect the views of The Gleaner. To respond to a Gleaner editorial, email us: editor@gleanerjm.com or fax: 922-6223. Responses should be no longer than 400 words. Not all responses will be published.

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