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LETTER OF THE DAY: Who evaluates the watchman?

Published:Saturday | March 13, 2010 | 12:00 AM

The Editor, Sir:

When we appoint certain people to be "entrusted with the responsibility to lead the State's anti-corruption, law-enforcement and prosecutorial institutions" (a quote borrowed from another paper), what are the measures that we put in place to ensure that they are up to the mark, and keep up to the mark, in every way, as they carry out their duties?

Apart from periodic reports - which can say anything you want them to - what do we do to make sure that in every nook and cranny, things are being done in acceptable ways? Sure there are audits, but, again, don't you wonder sometimes how some things get 'overlooked'?

As so many have said, repeatedly, Jamaica has sunk into a rather horrific abyss. The taxpayers would welcome suitable persons in whom to repose their trust. However, when we appoint someone in Jamaica to a position of almost unrestrained power - doesn't matter who it is - we have to remember that that person is human. He or she, like anyone else, has to deal with personal demons. There may be psychological or emotional shortcomings which, as we know, are not usually indicated on a résumé or highlighted during an interview or even have been demonstrated in a 'less powerful' job. Being in a position where he or she doesn't have to answer to anyone, per se, is a pretty powerful one. As Lord Acton said in a letter to Bishop Mandel Creighton in 1887: "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men."

Hope is not a method

Does this mean that we leave these positions of almost unlimited power unfilled because each man/woman has his/her set of weaknesses? Do we throw our hands up, appoint someone who seems to fit the bill, and then hope for the best? Again, hope is not a method.

It's a different take on the whole thing, but, I submit that while we look around for these positions of power to be filled, for the best woman or man to be "entrusted with the responsibility to lead the State's anti-corruption, law-enforcement and prosecutorial institutions", we also institute some kind of mandatory psychological (and other relevant) evaluation to assure ourselves that the incumbent remains fit for the job - in every way! No set date, either. Between a year and 18 months, with no more notice than a day or two, the evaluation is done and the taxpayers get to hear the final result. No. This is not to evaluate them to determine sainthood. But, certainly, however it is crafted, it should help to determine whether power is going to the head, and possibly leading to some 'can't touch dis!' behaviour.

Real transparency

Consider the yet-to-be created Independent Commission of Investigations to be led by a commissioner - pretty powerful position. Generally, those are regarded as 'what I say, goes' positions. But, every public position is answerable to someone and, ultimately, the country's taxpayers. A palatable pronouncement is one thing. Behind the closed doors of the organisation, what is taking place and how? Intrusive? Lack of trust? Perhaps, but, we're talking about real, real transparency. Nothing to hinder the work, just enough to keep us assured.

So, it's not just about who is watching the watchman. Deeper still, are we keeping track of whether he or she is embracing delusions of grandeur under the weight of the powerful position? Who questions him/her? Do media even bother? Listen, danger ahead when people in powerful positions become 'media darlings'. The media only become conduits of messages and clearly lose objectivity as they are essentially dictated to, as they dare not carry out 'investigative journalism' which might topple the status quo. And if the media do get wind that something has gone awry, again, do they bother, or do they just leave it be, because everything else seems to be working and 'no better nuh deh a John shop'?

Things like reports and audits do not necessarily capture, for example, the hell of a milieu to which employees are sometimes subjected, as they endure the psychological and emotional onslaughts borne out of the psychological and mental delusions from occupying an 'almighty' position.

I am, etc.,



Toronto, Canada