Jamaican Transparency: Corruption by Another Name

CaribZone Commentary: Aubrey Campbell –Monday, April 18th

Gentle folks, let’s continue to make a joyful noise unto the Lord, as we know not the day nor the hour, when Jehovah will return to claim His Kingdom! To God be the glory!

I am guessing that I am the only one not surprised at a news item carried in the Sunday edition of the Jamaica Observer newspaper about the island nation’s transparency index (TI). Simply put, the TI tracks how easy it is to do business with the state. And in this context, ‘easy’ means without any strings attached, without any undue pressure!

So, talk with me now. Let’s get the conversation started to start off another week. What is interesting here is the complainant, good ole Uncle Sam, police officer to the world and not the legit, watchdog unit out of Germany, Transparency International (TI).

The USA has transparency issues of its own. Take for example the latest move by well paced operatives in the Republican Party, to deny Donald Trump the party’s nomination in the upcoming national elections in November. How do you turn your back on the best that you’ve got? Answer. Only when it’s politics in the USA.

And so, what the 2015 report, compiled by the US State Department of State is saying/doing, is regurgitate its 2014 report, listing Jamaica as one of the more dangerous places to want to start and do business.

If you can live with the migrane, fine! Because you will recall not so long ago that the highly influential Forbes magazine rated Jamaica as one of the better places in the LAC region (Latin America & Caribbean), to do business.

If you are not doing so well at home, managing your domestic affair, you will be inclined and/or you will be encouraged to seek help, usually from outside! And so the IMF’s deep meddling in the nation’s internal affairs can be traced to this presumption. Peter Phillips was the front man while the IMF ‘run tings’ until tings run him!

No doubt, that’s why the new PM, Andrew Holiness (sic), before the ink could dry on the parchment paper bearing the seal of the office, he was on record saying that his administration will make it easier to do business with the world.

And that begs the question, how easy is easy?

I remember writing in this space some weeks ago that much of the difficulty encountered in wanting to do business with Jamaica, has to do with lack of respect for systems, guidelines and proper protocols. There are Embassies, High Commissions and Consulates all over the place, yet we will get up and go to Jamaica and expected the parting of the Red Sea, er..red tape!

I noted then that if the initial due diligence is done, that of and in itself, removes one layer of the corruption matrix.

The honest truth is that the lack of transparency is so opaque, it’s like second nature. Just ask anyone, and I mean anyone who has visited/been on the island recently and having to drive for any appreciable amount of time, night or in broad daylight.

If you are driving on the straight road, Highway 2000 it is called and yes, I know the conceptualizer very well. You encounter a random ‘speed trap’, there is no way to turn but ‘here comes danger’ (Chronixx), weapon at the ready, with the magic or trick question – you decide – left or write? (sic).

These are police officers, road traffic cops, fully uniformed, in broad daylight, who could not care less. They are going to shake you down, turn you, inside out! The bigger picture here, folks, is that the Justice system is a joke.

If you are fearless and a whistle blower, they will find a way to chase you out of office, town and country, in very short order. It’s called ‘secondment’. Google it! I am also aware of an Integrity Commission, however the perception that it is politics as usual, is getting it nowhere, fast! There is a doctor in the house but the right medicine is missing from the cabinet. (No pun intended).

See the new justice minister, a couple weeks ago, pleading with court officials to get rid of cases, languishing in the system five years or more. He wants those cases closed with proper legal authority by the end of this year!

Canada has given some money towards cleaning up this delay of justice mess and we are all too familiar with the ‘handle’ to that adage!

So while Jamaica’s lack of transparency is nothing new and not unique to either half of the political spectrum, it is very worrying, troubling, even!

You have no doubt see, heard and may have been impacted in some ways by the offshoot of that corruption index, scamming! I have.

If yuh tink a lie mi ah tell, read the report fi yuh self.

“The United States Department of State 2015 report on human rights practices says Jamaica’s Government is corrupt and lacks transparency.

The 2015 report, which has very similar findings to the 2014 report, said although there are existing laws, which provide criminal penalties for corrupt officials, the Government has failed to effectively implement the laws, resulting in officials sometimes engaging in corrupt practices with impunity.

To bolster its claim, the report stated: “The government continued efforts to interdict and prosecute officials’ corrupt practices and raise public awareness on corruption. Media and civil society organisations, however, continued to criticise the Director of Public Prosecution for being slow and at times reluctant to prosecute corruption cases.”

For example, the DPP did not order an investigation of a former mayor for nepotism in the award of public contracts until after a court, in December, ruled in favor of the Contractor General in deciding the DPP could prosecute, the report said.

In September, the Jamaica Constabulary Force’s Major Organized Crime and Anti-Corruption Agency arrested and charged 10 officials for public sector corruption and 22 police officers for corruption. During the same period, courts reached 27 convictions, three acquittals and 14 dismissals. Pending in the courts were 159 corruption cases from 2008 to 2015.

In the 2014 report, the US also alluded to an Organisation of American States (OAS) report, which was critical of Jamaica’s prosecutorial agencies for their general failure to prosecute corruption cases, especially the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions”.

That’s today’s conversation. What do you have to say for yourself? As always you have the last word. Share your thoughts.


1 Comment on Jamaican Transparency: Corruption by Another Name

  1. Hello Mr Campbell. Please continue to sound the alarm about corruption and crime in Jamaica. Who knows, maybe one day it will reach tolerable levels. I am optimistic that the old order will wain through attrition and the new generation will reject that way of life.
    Hopefully more of us after retirement will find a way to return to Jamaica and live safely. I think their presence will bolster the anti corruption movement.
    I believe the corruption began in earnest as far back as the 1940’s when bauxite was discovered in Jamaica. The multi national companies from the Developed world found it necessary to bribe the Government officials in Jamaica in order to get the ‘best’ price for the ore. Each political party has benefited from this payoff and so the corruption has been embedded in the society. The second part of the Corruption scheme was to give visas to allow potential adversaries to corruption off the island. Now the developed countries seemed to have abandoned the bauxite industry as well as their immigration policy. In closing i implore you to keep up the conversation.

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