The return of Mr Greg Christie: hope and dread

Editorial

The return of Mr Greg Christie: hope and dread

Sunday, February 16, 2020

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When Mr Greg Christie departed as contractor general in 2012, there were many questions. So it is now with his impending return as executive director of the corruption watchdog, the Integrity Commission on May 18, 2020.

Mr Christie's return brings with it, at one and the same time, great hope and niggling dread.

Hope that he comes back as a better man, having learnt from his previous mistakes, thereby enhancing his chances of attaining superlative success in the fight against corruption; dread that he returns as the old Greg Christie, having learnt nothing and even more cynical than before.

In his 2005-2012 tenure we watched with great disappointment and growing disillusionment as he allowed the overwhelming support for his office to go to his head and to feed into his seemingly insatiable appetite for media attention.

What was more difficult to ignore was the contractor general's penchant for rushing to the public with even the most spurious and unsubstantiated claims of wrongdoing, caring not that when one's name is dragged through the mud, even after it is proven to be unjustified, the damage is done. A hard-won reputation can be destroyed in an instant by merely publishing an allegation.

Mr Christie could not resist the temptation to have people tried in the court of public opinion before they were tried in a court of law. He chose shaming before investigation, and that hurt his office grievously.

We tend to be optimistic in this space, and so our instinct is to wish Mr Christie a happy landing and to offer him our fullest support for a job which can be thankless but which could make such a monumental difference in advancing the welfare of this beloved land.

Yet there are two questions for which, perhaps, only time will provide the answer and set us at ease: Why is he returning now and why is he leaving what some thought was a cushy job as director of the Integrity Commission of the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) after less than two years?

In his parting shot at the end of 2012, Mr Christie suggested that his Office of the Contractor General was akin to a “toothless bulldog”, and he decried the lack of political will on both sides to fight corruption, saying he had become despondent.

The current Integrity Commission Act restricts the disclosure of investigations being conducted by the agency until the end of the examination, in order to ensure confidentiality in the process. That is contrary to how Mr Christie operated. By accepting the job, is that a suggestion that he is now willing to change?

In respect of the TCI, he had declared: “I feel privileged to be afforded with the opportunity to work in a leadership role within what is perhaps the most advanced independent integrity, anti-corruption and good governance framework in the Commonwealth Caribbean with the best practices…”

Mr Christie's departure so soon from such an ideal-sounding job in the TCI raises questions, especially given his misgivings about Jamaica's lack of will to fight corruption.

Still, we welcome him and acknowledge his skill, tenacity and commitment demonstrated while he was contractor general.


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