Money cannot buy integrity and honesty

Sunday, August 05, 2018

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Recent events resulting in the belated resignations of a minister of Government and the chairman of the board of directors of a public entity serve to highlight the importance of how to ensure good governance.

A system is only as good as the people in the system. People in any system are only as good as their competence, integrity, and willingness to do their best. This dictum needs to be recognised by people who are selected and accept to serve as members of the board of directors of public entities. Starting from this premise we make the following recommendations.

First, only the best from the most suitably qualified should be selected. Suitably qualified means those with relevant professional training and appropriate experience. Their integrity must be beyond question. Due diligence must include screening and background checks.

Second, those who select board members must bear some responsibility for their conduct. Appointments of this nature are usually the prerogative of ministers of Government. Politicians too often see these appointments as rewards for party supporters and friends.

This is an invitation for faulty appointments, and there is need for an impartial body to oversee the appointees to weed out political cronies. This type of transparency is necessary to restore public confidence and ensure better governance.

We are satisfied that the proposal recently outlined by Minister of Finance and the Public Service Dr Nigel Clarke can effectively address points one and two.

Third, we want to reiterate our call in an earlier editorial for all who will emerge from the proposed new, rigorous and transparent selection process that they must be trained in the manner in which justices of the peace are trained.

The training is necessary because in a small country like Jamaica it is difficult to find 2,000 suitable persons to fill the boards of directors of 190 public bodies. It should not be difficult to arrange for the appropriate training to be conducted by the University of the West Indies and other tertiary institutions. This type of training would elicit funding from bilateral donors and multilateral development finance institutions. When all is said and done, there remains the problem of corruption, which arises from the lack of integrity. The new system proposed by Minister Clarke, in conjunction with our proposal for training, should reduce the scope for corruption and incompetence but there is no substitute for integrity.

The lack of integrity and the corruption it breeds are pandemics in Jamaica. Too many Jamaicans have a high tolerance for dishonesty and corruption. The prevailing philosophy is “Man have to eat a food”.

This is a licence to do anything to satisfy a need, including criminal activities and violence to others. But it is not need alone that drives corruption, it is oftentimes just want. It is not the hungry youth who steals a mango that is fuelling corruption, it is people who are middle-income and even wealthy but are driven by greed.

Integrity is the rarest of commodities and it is something that money cannot buy.

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