Sun | Jun 26, 2022

Corruption in government contracts bigger than scamming

Published:Monday | May 23, 2022 | 12:06 AM

THE EDITOR, Madam:

The prime minister has been taking on the issues of bad construction firms over the last year or so. Not only is this timely, but it is also urgent. There is a fierce urgency of now that must drive his campaign against shoddy and corrupt contractors. This must not be taken lightly.

For many years, contractors who are awarded government contracts have run amok and Jamaica has paid a very high price. In fact, the World Economic Forum (WEF) estimates that the value of losses through corruption tends to range between 10 and 30 per cent of the contract value and that a similar amount could be lost through mismanagement and inefficiency. As such, some 60 per cent of our taxpayer dollars spent on government construction contracts could be leaking through the system. The WEF sees this as a major crisis and so does the prime minister.

Having retired some five years ago from managing government construction projects, I have been able to assist in a number of projects internationally. We need serious reform in Jamaica if we are to come up anywhere to international standards. I wholeheartedly endorse the prime minister’s efforts.

As an example, many contractors who won contracts up to five years ago would simply underbid and then rake in huge amounts through what is known as compensation events. This is when some delay occurs on the project and they charge the Government for their delay. In many instances, the contractors have found ways to delay the projects themselves, and then charge the Government for it.

Corruption in government contracts is a bigger problem than scamming. It literally siphons money away from Government coffers and the many beneficiaries of these contracts, as well as other social programmes, are starved of the benefits.

I call on the Ministry of Finance, as well as the Ministry of National Security to join the prime minister in his efforts, and all well-thinking Jamaicans should assist in any and all efforts aimed at reducing corruption in government contracts. I also call on members of the media to shine a bright and searing light on these issues.

MARK HANDY