Sun | Jan 23, 2022

Patria-Kaye Aarons | Who are their concubines?

Published:Tuesday | April 2, 2019 | 12:00 AM

Opposition spokesperson on education and fellow columnist Ronnie Thwaites last week wrote a piece that caught my attention.

Here’s the part that really struck a chord:

“Full and complete answers to all the questions regarding its (CMU) connection with the Ruel Reid Foundation, any hiring of relatives, concubines and party hacks; full details of all contracts involving the ministry, are needed this week.”

As Kalilah and I interviewed the good reverend on Nationwide News Network, essentially about the contents of his article and the concerns of his party, I made mention of that line.

Without missing a beat, my co-host’s next question to Mr Thwaites was, “Whose concubine?” … and I could kiss her. (For clarity, I could kiss Kalilah. Not the concubine).

The question was warranted. And germane in it all was just how little we officially know about our politicians’ inner circles. Investigations by various ethics committees look into the character of the actual parliamentarian, but that doesn’t go far enough.

In the interest of good governance and proper scrutiny, we need to be able to anticipate who the potential accomplices are to their potential wrongdoings. Who should we keep on our radar that may be receiving secret cheques and cushy jobs for which they aren’t qualified, and who is getting payment for work never done.

I’m not naive enough to believe that knowing those close to our legislators is a foolproof corruption stopper. But too many unsavoury stories have been told (or more accurately, whispered) that have proven to be true and which have caught the country off guard.

Declaration and investigation

My reference point is the regulation that obtains for those who are registered fit and proper by the Bank of Jamaica (BOJ) to sit on bank boards. Annually, they must declare all their related and connected persons. Everybody, from partners to estranged fathers to siblings and dependents. All companies they have a financial or fiduciary interest in must also be declared. And before they are approved, BOJ painfully goes through every line to verify the truthfulness and completeness of the information. Police records and background checks must also be submitted.

I think politicians should be held to a similar level of study because of the power they wield, as well as the access they have to the public purse.

I say it in jest, (but not really): we should also have them declare ‘babymothers and concubines’. We have a nasty habit as a nation. Too many politicians have too many side pieces. To be fair, it isn’t a problem exclusive to politicians. Bun run in and out of Easter … and society seems to accept it. The danger to the taxpayer’s pocket is that ‘concubines’ could be unknowingly maintained with public funds. You can’t very well give away your personal cash, ‘cause wifey can and will track that. But go ahead. Reward them with government money. Who will ever know!

The stories aren’t new. I remember as a child living in St Mary and near every high-school class, first to fifth form, had a child with a particular last name. Different mothers, all fathered by the member of parliament.

How many political representatives are ‘sewing seed’ in the constituencies they work in, and what is the risk to Jamaica? Not trying to be a penis police, but how many cheques are being drawn in a babymother’s name, and did anyone benefit from the service other than the politician?

Nepotism, as I have been made to understand, is immoral but not illegal. I still struggle to believe that’s true.

Declarations are made annually (or ought to be made) to the Integrity Commission.

How much of what is submitted is stress-tested? Challenged and scrutinised? Or is the exercise simply another box-checking activity?

Let me also say that I’m happy all the scandals are coming to the fore. Being fully ventilated openly. For me, it’s by no means an indication that one party is more corrupt than the other. It is clear to me that PNP insiders are leaking information about what is happening on the inside of the government agencies in which they work. Information that they kept quiet while their party was in power ... likely because they too benefited.

I believe strongly in a shake-up every now and again. A change in government to remind those in charge that, ultimately, it is the people who hold the power. By all means, parties should employ COMPETENT political hacks. It’s perhaps the only way taxpayers will truly know the inner demons of our agencies.

Patria-Kaye Aarons is a confectioner and broadcaster. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and findpatria@gmail.com.