Sun | Sep 25, 2022

Letter of the Day | Drain the swamp of corruption!

Published:Thursday | June 13, 2019 | 12:00 AM


Prof Fritz Pinnock, president of Caribbean Maritime University (CMU), has been such a disappointment. We are now learning from the media that the CMU has hired an attorney to block the Financial Investigations Division (FID) from proceeding with court orders to obtain documents related to corruption charges as they continue to probe former Minister of Education Ruel Reid, and questionable expenses by CMU. According to reports, the CMU has ‘lawyered up’ to fight the court order, and key witnesses have been issuing threats to the investigators, in an effort to frustrate the process. People do these things when they feel they can get away with it. I wonder who pays for these lawyers? Where is the Government in charge? And where is the Opposition, who should be following up?

We saw some of this resistance in the ridiculous answers initially provided by Pinnock to the Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC) when questioned about transactions incurred by the CMU which appeared suspect. If there is nothing to hide, why block the documents? Only mob gangsters operate like this, and we normally don’t expect to find them in publicly funded organisations! We’ve heard that the FID has been faced with mounting challenges related to the probe, including missing documents in organisations. This is disturbing on many levels, and a cause for concern. If we are to stamp out corruption, laws must be changed to force cooperation or face severe penalties, including jail time. The Access to Information Act allows access to information from the public service and the FID should have full access; they should not disclose their plans publicly, which may result in documents being destroyed. They should conduct unannounced raids with security protection.

If Pinnock had come clean from the beginning – that he had a lapse in judgement with the expenditures – there might’ve been some sympathy, considering all the good he has done for the university. Although some would still question his sincerity, understandably, there was more than one questionable incidents linked to the CMU. It was only after the second round of PAAC questioning that Pinnock finally admitted the truth: that the CMU hosted a yacht party for the minister. The hiring of a special adviser at the CMU with a $5-million annual salary, who by all accounts was not qualified, is also reason for further probing. The whole thing is fishy and smells stink of corruption.

It is time to drain the swamp and clean it properly. Jamaicans continue to suffer, while those in high public offices use their authority in unethical ways, costing the country millions. Funds wasted could be better spent on social development and other critical areas. The FID should have enhanced powers to do their jobs more effectively in a timely manner, without delay.

P. Chin