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Let the OCG fulfil its mission

Published:Monday | May 28, 2012 | 12:00 AM

By Garth A. Rattray

In observing the dispute between the Office of the Contractor General (OCG) and the minister of transport, works and housing, I must admit that I am somewhat befuddled. If the Government needs faster responses and less systemic, perfunctory, mechanistic, bureaucratic impediments in order to take advantage of developmental opportunities, why not simply sit down with the OCG to facilitate this instead of appointing the Independent Oversight Panel (IOP)?

Baldly put, as I see it, the Contractor General Act (of 1983) became necessary in order that there be fairness/equity in awarding government 'assets' and to jealously protect the public purse. Prior to the appointment of Mr Greg Christie, we never heard much about the OCG. He has been praised and vilified and dubbed as vigilant, efficient and overexuberant.

However, if most people knew what I know of what was rampant before the OCG existed and what still manages to stealthily slither below the OCG radar today, they would understand the actions of Mr Christie whenever he vigorously and fearlessly defends the ambit of the OCG.

The PRICE OF PATRIOTISM

More than two decades ago, someone very familiar to me was employed in a managerial position in a government agency. He was a very patriotic and conscientious Jamaican who declined several opportunities to seek far more lucrative and secure employment abroad (in the United States of America or Saudi Arabia). In spite of his expertise in several diverse fields, he returned to his homeland for the purpose of doing his part to uplift his country and help it grow.

He was eventually approached by an agent of a politician who was in a position of power and influence. The agent produced an invoice for a contract that was already awarded to a faithful party supporter. That was par for the course at that time, but, in this particular case, the patriot was 'asked' to sign off on the extremely inflated contract (double its value).

He felt affronted, and his honesty did not allow him to submit to his boss' instructions. He sent back a message explaining that he was unable to comply, and that was the beginning of the end of his job and career in public service. I subsequently came to understand that the monies were badly needed to give friends so that they, in turn, could contribute to campaign financing.

In all fairness, I also understand that party leaders are not necessarily privy to these back-door shenanigans. The practice of repaying political favours/support with contracts and reaping the financial rewards of kickbacks has been around for a very long time. In spite of the existence of a vigilant OCG, it still exists today.

Depending on politicians

Several individuals remain wholly and solely economically dependent on their relationship with politicians and the contracts - sometimes worth tens of millions of dollars - that they can 'send their way'. Individuals are still living high on the hog - gorging themselves from the proverbial trough.

As you read this, certain persons in positions of trust, power and privilege (gained through politics) speak out publicly and vociferously against social inequities, but they are so ensconced and intertwined in the system that they know how to manipulate it to effect favours and to gain dishonest income for themselves and for their cause.

All that is bad enough, but there are serious ramifications of such actions. They involve people campaigning and voting purely for selfish reasons; the rationalisation and systemisation of illegality and violence at the societal level; acrimonious political relationships; seemingly routine 'changing of the guard' whenever one political administration replaces the other; unfair and unhealthy socio-economic advantages by one group or another and the perpetuation of poverty and divisiveness in our little country.

Garth A. Rattray is a medical doctor with a family practice. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and garthrattray@gmail.com.