Why we must not relent in calling out corruption
The scale of corruption and abuse of public resources in Jamaica is frighteningly high, and the defence of some that it has always been this way (which I am not sure is true), is the very reason we must do something about it, not ignore it.
My friend Lou, (not her real name), would often scoff at my constant highlighting of corruption. She contends in a disdainful voice that that “nobody cares”. Her defence of the corruption taking place in this administration and her deference for the actions of the government made discussions with her wearying. She would frequently urge me to “stop wasting time on this corruption thing” for I was not “moving the needle”. Lou’s views, perhaps, reflect the sentiments of many Jamaicans. Worn down by the constant acts of corruption and seeing nothing done about them, in that no one is held accountable, and seeing them increase in number, really makes it appear that “nobody cares”. But I dare say we MUST CARE, for losing interest and ceasing to take notice are precisely what corrupt leaders want. Loss of interest, false information, confusion – leading people to feel unsure what to believe, and citizens’ sense of resignation serve to embolden the corrupt. We must remain vigilant!
The cost of corruption.
It is well that we be reminded about the cost of corruption. Corruption sucks out 5% of the country’s annual production of goods and services (referred to as gross domestic product – GDP). The country’s GDP is approximately two trillion dollars. Five per cent of $2T is $100B.
Let us look at what $100B represents.
- Jamaica’s budget in 2019 was $803B, in 2020 it was $853.5B, and in 2021 the budget is $830.78B, for an average (mean) of about $830B. One hundred billion is 12% of the annual budget.
- The recurrent allocation to the Ministry of Education in each year’s budget is about 13%. This means that the amount lost to corruption each year is about equal to what runs the operations of the entire Ministry of Education.
- The Ministry of Education gets the largest share of the budget after debt servicing. This means that corruption take a bigger slice of the budget than every ministry, except one, to which it is roughly equivalent.
- One hundred billion is one hundred thousand million (100,000,000,000). There are about twenty-five thousand (25,000) teachers in the public education system, about 12,000 police personnel, and about 2,500 nurses. Let’s round up that number to 40,000 among these three categories of public sector workers. If $100B dollars were added to their salaries each year they each would get an average of $2.5M more on their salaries.
- A tablet costs about $25,000.00. There are 400,000 students who do not have tablets. To give each child a tablet would cost about $10B or a mere 10% of the $100B squandered on corruption each year. In short, we could solve the lack of device crisis in an instant, just by cutting out corruption.
With corruption costing the country as much as it is, we cannot relent in the fight against it.
Government lacks the will to fight corruption
The country faces the clear psychological risk of becoming immune to the horrors of corruption. Like crime, we hear of their occurrence and because of the prevalence we note them and simply move on. We must guard against this tendency and remain vigilant. And yes, I repeat, corruption has long been a problem in Jamaica. The question is: what are we going to do about it, now!!?
I have concluded that the Holness administration lacks the will to tackle corruption. Lack of will, as a sociological and psychological construct can mean one of three things. Firstly, that a person desires to have the will but simply does not, so the person is unable to prevent the preventable from happening; secondly that the person does not possess the capacity or frame of mind and simply does not care if the thing happens; or thirdly that the person lacks (chooses not to have) one will but possesses another, an ill-will. With this ill-will the person does the wrong thing.
When one looks at the continuous stream of corrupt activities committed by members of the Holness administration, including a host of unelected, appointed people, one is hard pressed not to conclude that the members of the administration either do not possess the moral frame to be anti-corrupt or simply possess the ill-will to be corrupt.
Corrupt actions of the Holness administrations, 2016 to date, have cut across every Ministry and the list is simply too long to keep track. I have listed some below, but only some. We need, as conscious citizens who see the cost of corruption, to fight back. Here are some of the names of the ministries, agencies, and labels of corrupt activities of the Holness administration. We must know them and name them to expose them and fight them, and hopefully prevent more from happening (if we are lucky). The corrupt activities range from self-dealing, to nepotism, price gorging, hiring of unqualified and connected persons – including relatives, fat salaries, by-passing of procurement procedures, among others. Despite the many acts of corruption covering almost every ministry, and despite several damning Auditor General reports, citing the evidence of corruption, the scale and scope of the corrupt acts continue and answers to questions are hardly received. Let us be reminded about some of these corrupt acts and what remains to be done. It is important to note that the list below is a small sample of the dozens of corrupt acts, but tell one story: hardly anything comes of them and for this reason we must fight harder.
Sample of Ministries involved in Poor Governance / Corruption and Status of Investigations
|Ministry||Agencies / Functionaries Involved||Corrupt Acts||Government’s Initial Response||Status of Matter / Evidence of Accountability or Lack|
|Economic Growth and Job Creation||NWA||$800M De-bushing programme||No comments from one year||PM cleared all three ministers accused of wrongdoing|
|Culture, Gender, Entertainment, and Sport||JCDC||Salary payments and procurement of services||Prime Minister stated by Minister Grange would respond in Parliament||Awaiting response from Minister Grange|
|Education, Youth, and Information||CMU||Appointment of senior personnel and procurement of services||New Board||Matter with former president languishing in court, no action on other aspects of report such as scope of works for repairs to 9 schools in NW St. Ann changed by contractor|
|NPL||Conflicts of interest and appointment of qualified persons||Minister Williams – “Deeply concerned”||Board and all senior managers remain in place|
|Science, Energy, and Technology||NESoL||Cash unaccounted for and qualified staff appointed to senior positions||Close company||Not clear whether the charges against suspects are being pursued|
|Petrojam Minister HR Manager General Manager||Breach of HR processes in recruitment, promotions, salary payments donations||Minister resigned HR Manager resigns with golden handshake under non-disclosure agreement||Former Minister re-elected MP, holds senior positions in Parliament|
|Labour and Social Security||NIF||Fraudulent payments||Investigations promised||No reports of findings of investigations|
|Ministry of Transport and Mining||JUTC||Abuse of overtime payments, fat salaries to unqualified persons|
|Airports Authority||Unauthorized investment of public funds / self-dealing|
Agency abbreviations in order of mention:
JCDC – Jamaica Cultural Development Commission
CMU – Caribbean Maritime University
NPL – Nutrition Products Ltd.
NESoL – National Energy Solutions Ltd
USF – Universal Service Fund
NIF – National Insurance Fund
JUTC – Jamaica Urban Transit Company