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EDITORIAL: Customs: mocking its own rules

Published:Saturday | March 20, 2010 | 12:00 AM

The report by the contractor general that last year's motor-vehicle auction by Jamaica Customs was flawed and lacked transparency should surprise no one. Contractor General Greg Christie described the process as "unfair", "irregular" and "improper".

Participants in the auction fully expected that the rules would apply equally to all parties and that the process would have been transparent. But they soon discovered that preferential treatment had been accorded to the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) in the selection of vehicles. Additionally, the JCF did not make the mandatory 10 per cent deposit. In the current economic climate, it may indeed be to the advantage of the country for the police to procure some of its vehicles from an auction such as this, but the correct thing would have been to withdraw these vehicles from the sale, instead of presenting them as items for sale, knowing that they had been earmarked for the JCF.

Commissioner of Customs Danville Walker is not one to concede errors or mistakes, so his reaction to Wednesday's revelations contained in the contractor general's report to Parliament was predictable. "although some procedural inconsistencies arose from allowing a government agency to avoid paying the deposit, the overall procedures were in accordance with the rules."

flout the rules

Confused? So are we. Judging from that statement no rules were broken, they were merely sidestepped. Mr Walker, this is unacceptable, and we demand a higher standard of accountability from Jamaica Customs.

It is almost as if Mr Walker expects that because the matter involves an agent of the state, namely, the police, it is OK to flout the rules. In this matter, the commissio-ner of customs and his department emerge as the epitome of a broken system in which the culture of impunity is deeply entrenched. No rules were broken, instead we agilely danced around them; no lies were told, just a few half-truths. The fact is that, as Jamaicans, we blow hot and cold about corruption and few people are really bothered about accountability.

It is very clear, however, that ordinary citizens have become tired of this broken system and at least some citizens believe there is no acceptable level of corruption. This is why Contractor General Christie is widely appreciated for seriously tackling the scourge of corruption which has planted a huge scar on the face of Jamaica. And even if the contractor general's chiding has no material consequence in this instance, the victims of that corrupt process can feel satisfaction that the relevant authority cannot dodge the fact that the process was flawed and lacked transparency.

Corruption from any quarter and at any level should not be tolerated and we are grateful for the courage of the contractor general.

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