Gordon Robinson | The SSL politics
Whenever life’s vicissitudes rubbished my predictions or promises the Dunce’s consolation was always “If a macca mek it jook yu!”
On Tuesday readers learned why I’ve been avoiding comment on the specifics of SSL fraud allegations shocking the nation primarily because of one of its victims’ high national profile. But we should all be aware variegated fraud perpetrated by a wide spectrum of individuals has been a feature of financial systems worldwide, including Jamaica’s, ever since man stopped trading in animal hides or rifles and invented money.
On second thought some of us still trade in rifles. This could be a motivation for Government’s anxiety to risk perpetrating a breach of international law by conducting what Vlad might call a “military exercise” in Haiti.
But I digress.
Apart from the published amount of money defrauded and the speculation as to the culprit(s) the only thing that differentiates this from previous and contemporaneous frauds is the name of one victim who, at least fiscally, seems to be taking the loss in stride (no pun intended). My heart goes out to other victims especially a reported 87 years old widow whose entire investment portfolio used to provide immediately needed pension was wiped out. Others have time (and resources) to try to recover by one way or another.
So, today, I’m still not prepared to go into the details of the alleged fraudulent schemes and speculate or analyze on the identity of persons who may be criminally or civilly liable. I won’t participate in the sort of salivating speculation that has been going on in certain media circles with the aid of inappropriately leaked internal documents.
But, no matter where I turn this particular macca seems determined to jook me. The good news is media consumers can depend on a few real Jamaican journalists to tackle national issues in preference to suss. One such is the brilliant, committed and fearless Dionne Jackson-Miller. On January 30, she interviewed the Finance Minister on radio and focused on the big picture. As a direct result of her peerless production, Nigel was forced to make some startling revelations. For example:
• There’s no historical record at the Ministry. When a new Minister comes in the files are “cleared” and the new Minister starts from scratch. The 2020 FSC report came in ALONE with no history.
HOW WOULD HE ABLE?
A couple of things arise here. Firstly, Nigel spent much of the interview promising to release (in part) FSC reports to the Ministry over 13 years. So how would he be able to do this if the files were “cleared”? Elementary my dear Watson! Since it’s improbable he was being economical with the truth about file clearance, it must be that he sourced copies from FSC. Those copies would always have been available to him had he seen the 2020 report and wished a historical record to advise himself (and cabinet) as to possible need for any (new) policy direction.
Secondly why is this Westminster relic (file clearing) still a thing? This is a perfect example of the need to change that fool-fool colonial import. And shouldn’t civil servants keep their own files to protect against inappropriate shredding by Ministers suddenly fired by disgruntled electorates?
What has happened to Nigel’s trumpeting of continuity in Government?
Later on Nigel tried to brush off the Ministry’s neglect with “we all know what was happening in 2020”. Mebbe. But FSC’s report on SSL’s 2019 shenanigans arrived April 2020 (very early in “what-we-all-know”) and Nigel is Finance not Health Minister.
Nigel went off on a political rant:
• What’s happening now is “ an abuse of the transparency I’m showing”; and “cheap political points trying to deflect from…the issue”
Sounds like anything but grovelling genuflection followed by “Yassa Massa’ would be an “abuse of transparency” or a “cheap political point deflecting from the real issue.” I’ve noticed a tendency to pursue politics over governance creeping into the pronouncements of an otherwise excellent, experienced, enterprising Finance Minister. He should be careful to protect his reputation from political demons surrounding him and constantly plotting to possess him. I’d hate to see another highly qualified, dedicated finance minister forced by a pervasively perverse political system into embracing “run wid it” philosophy.
Nigel, the purpose of transparency is to invite constructive critique not political worship. He asserted:
• Ministry of Finance does NOT have the power to overrule FSC on any individual prudential matter.
Koh-wreck! But the problem is electors have been deliberately given the impression politicians can control every statutory agency and influence every decision so agencies toe party lines for party-in-power supporters’ benefit. A population denied education in civics has taken this fanciful foolishness as gospel. Some elected politicians actually try to deliver on this farcical fake and many politically appointed statutory bodies allow them to succeed for a variety of reasons ranging from blind political support to fear of loss of status.
So now it suits Nigel to point out what should be obvious but has never been reality. He proudly stands on a platform of political independence. KMT!
• He would be releasing only FSC’s directions not the full report. “If we release the full report for one year we would have to release the full report for every year.
• “…. and that would not be in the national interest”
Give me a break. First and foremost, except in Nigel’s politically tinted rear-view mirror, the issue is NOT what happened in 2013. The issue is what’s happening NOW. Let’s ask Janet Jackson:
Used to be a time when you would pamper me
Used to brag about it all the time
Your friends seem to think that you’re so peachy-keen
But my friends say neglect is on your mind
What have you done for me lately?
It’s ironic Nigel is quick to accuse PNP of political deflection while HE talks about only publishing FSC recommendations and directions but insists it must be done for ALL reports in ten years in order to be “consistent across time”. This is the worst kind of political deflection as what he really means is “consistent across political administrations”.
WHAT YOU DID
Cho man! Jamaica has one political administration at a time and right now it’s Nigel at the finance bridge of today’s government. We the people don’t care about 2013’s specifics. We dealt with THAT Administration in 2016 when we elected YOU and again in 2020 when we re-elected YOU. So we want to know what YOU did in 2019, 2020, 2021 and 2022!
And we want to know all of what you and your FSC did not just selected parts. Your “consistency across time” charade is partisan political perspective not national concern.
Then Nigel leapt upon and embraced Dennis Chung’s help when Dennis opined that publishing the full report could alert persons being investigated. Suddenly this was also Nigel’s rationale for redacting the reports. Jesus H. Christ in a Chinese balloon! Anyone at risk of being implicated already KNOWS they’re vulnerable and are busy covering their tracks quicker than you can kiss a duck. Sensitive “secret” documents have already been leaked to selected media that gleefully broadcast premature, unreliable “facts” based on those leaks. So why not get the full facts from the horse’s mouth not tiny rancid bubbles squeezed out from the opposite end?
Release the full 2020 report. Of what are you REALLY afraid?
Nigel offered journalists his idea of questions they should be asking:
• All FSC directives were complied with. How could an entity with fraud for over 13 years get those audit reports? From external auditors. From “special” audits! How could fraud survive and not be seen?
I suppose it might be unseen like reports to Nigel’s office were unseen. Also Nigel should know that only a forensic audit (which wasn’t commissioned) can expose a concealed fraud.
Nigel had two closing arguments:
• A Minister shouldn’t opine on individual supervisory matters.
• A Minister is an elected official under our Constitution.
Bollocks! Herein lays the real national problem this brouhaha exposes. Not one cabinet member is elected as such. None is so much as vetted by the people’s parliamentary representatives before joining cabinet. Every Minister is appointed at PM’s whim and fancy as if he were Monarch. Insofar as Senators’ appointment to cabinet is concerned, it’s worse as they don’t even face the sham election dual purpose MPs/Ministers must tackle.
If we don’t stop this childish you-show-me-yours-before-I-show-you-mine squabble and take real steps to constitutionally construct a Government by the people for the people we’ll be forever doomed to revisit this and other national issues of Nicodemus governance masquerading as transparency.
Peace and Love.