What a day when we stamp out corruption

Editorial

What a day when we stamp out corruption

Sunday, July 12, 2020

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Jamaica's permanent pandemic comprises nepotism, cronyism and corruption which are rampant, widespread and unchecked.

This dishonest, immoral and costly practice often involves government assets — which ultimately belong to the Jamaican people — being disposed of at less than market value, absent a fair and transparent bidding process.

In this scenario, jobs are given to connected people who may not be qualified, and public enterprises pay large sums for work not done and for compensation upon termination of employment.

Contracts are awarded to unqualified suppliers; equipment purchased goes missing; there is a form of insider trading, where the connected people have access to information which others do not, or before they do, allowing them an advantage in purchasing or selling assets and services to the Government.

Estimated cost of nepotism, cronyism and corruption to the Jamaican economy varies from five per cent of gross domestic product to US$738 million.

The recent allegations of corruption in Government, involving Petrojam, Caribbean Maritime University and some parish councils, have seen ministers and officials being removed from their posts, even before being convicted in any court of law, because it happened under their watch and embarrassed the Government.

The People's National Party (PNP) has made corruption, along with crime, its principal criticism of the Jamaica Labour Party Administration. But the PNP has no moral legs on which to stand on these issues and as such its campaign has been met with cynicism, because neither political party seems serious about stamping out nepotism, cronyism and corruption while in office.

If polls are to be believed, most Jamaicans do not care about corruption. They accept it as a way of life that cannot change. But as a country, we should make a concerted effort to eliminate the pandemic of corruption, if not at least reduce the extent.

The Transparency International (TI) Global Corruption Barometer found that some 85 per cent of Jamaicans viewed our political parties as corrupt. Awareness of the pervasiveness of corruption has increased as more than 70 per cent of Jamaicans are more aware of corruption. TI, in its annual Corruption Perceptions Index, has ranked Jamaica below 40 out of 100, where zero means highly corrupt.

It may not be possible to completely eliminate corruption but any reduction is worth fighting for. The Integrity Commission needs to step up its efforts in this fight.

To respond to the apathy in the population, there might be further need to strengthen anti-corruption laws and institutions to facilitate effective implementation, and review regulations allowing elected officials to conduct certain types of business with Government.

People need to see that stamping out corruption will save taxpayers billions of dollars in misspent government expenditure and improve the efficiency of the public sector by increasing the impact on public sector investment.

Above all, it would clean up politics in Jamaica by removing those who are in it just to improve their own economic well-being and weeding out those who give support to political parties simply to access scarce benefits, such as jobs and contracts.


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