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EDITORIAL - Mr Ellington must respond to OCG's findings

Published:Tuesday | March 23, 2010 | 12:00 AM

IN A culture highly tolerant of prevarication and of end-justifies-the-means rationalisations, it is likely to be considered no big thing. For, as one minister predictably rationalised, the flak is worth absorbing if his actions helped to save the life of a single Jamaican.

Except that while distorting the rules may have, on this occasion, brought perceived benefits to the community at the expense of the individual. Once the compromises start, no one is clear where they will end. Corruption in Jamaica is a classic case study of this principle.

This is why it is important that we should be able to trust the word of public officials, and why we feel that it is important for the acting police chief, Mr Owen Ellington, to clear the air on the discrepancies in the sworn information he supplied to the Office of the Contractor General (OCG), and the clearly contradictory evidence of others in the OCG's probe of last year's infamous auction of vehicles by Customs that was cornered by the police.

At the time, Mr Ellington was the deputy commissioner of police in charge of operations, which included responsibility for the police's fleet of vehicles. In an attempt to allow the police to build up its fleet, officials in the Government hatched a scheme that allowed police officers operating as private buyers to bid on vehicles they wanted. The auction rules were then bent to legitimise the acquisitions.

Mr Ellington told the OCG that he was not involved in the auction, suggesting that he was, at best, very minimally aware of the issue until the day of the bids.

Overwhelming evidence

The evidence indicates otherwise, and Contractor General Greg Christie concluded: "The OCG has, therefore, found that although DCP Ellington was not at the auction, he was involved during the pre-auction stage. DCP Ellington knew that the JCF (Jamaica Constabulary Force) representatives would be involved in the auction as he had requested information regarding the auction prior to it being held, and had made arrangements with the JDC (Jamaica Customs Department) to view the vehicles which were up for auction."

Having been called out by Mr Christie, Mr Ellington cannot just allow it to fizzle. It goes to public trust and, as Mr Ellington is aware, demerits tend to build up and corrode.

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