From pillar to post
The government seems to be wandering from blunder to blunder and getting itself mired in situations that it really should not be. At present the most strident call has been for a serious effort to address corruption, which is said to be endemic. At the other end of the spectrum there are the people who have clear evidence of corruption but who remain silent because as they put it, they are afraid of victimisation.
Scarcely a day goes by without the news media carrying some report on corruption, highlighting the various practices and actually pointing to the source of the corruption. More recently, Mr. Ralph Ramkarran, a former Speaker of the National Assembly, was among those issuing a call on President Donald Ramotar to wake up to the fact that the reports and allegations of corruption were not helping his government.
There have been questionable contracts, all of which have incurred the ire of various sections of the populace but nothing has been done by way of a commission to investigate these contracts. Things have gone past the days when the focus was on those contractors who did shoddy work at exorbitant prices. For example, neighbourhoods complained about roads that deteriorated almost as soon as they were rehabilitated; kokers leading to nowhere and reports of payment for works that were never undertaken.
On those occasions people could have blamed the incidence of fraud and corruption on poor supervision by those paid by the government to monitor the various projects. The conclusion was that those paid to monitor were in cahoots with the contractors and actually encouraged the frauds. There were no investigations and certainly no prosecutions.’
The media reports have gone beyond the contractors; they are now focusing on the government itself. They reported on a building constructed for the National Insurance Scheme for a whopping $69 million when there was evidence that such a construction should not have cost half as much. Claims that someone pocketed the money went unanswered because of arrogance and a knowledge that there would be no independent investigators.
Now the accusations of corruption have become more strident and they involve major contracts involving foreign contractors. And there have been some large ones. What causes the concern is that these major contracts were never made known to the people in whose interest they are executed.
Governments are supposed to act on behalf of the people they lead. The money they invest is the people’s money. Indeed, governments would often act on behalf of the people whom they consider to be mindless and who really do not understand the bigger picture of national development.
This is what happened when the government undertook the largest investment in the history of the country to construct the large Skeldon Modernisation Plant. Sadly enough, this plant that was supposed to change the fortunes of the sugar industry is underperforming to the point that the country is producing less sugar than it did in twenty years.
That was not so bad but when the government undertakes the Cheddi Jagan International Airport project without even a whisper to the people, and then other projects like the Marriott Hotel project, the people do have a need to get answers to the questions they ask.
The airport expansion project is perhaps the most secretive and therefore the one attracting the most attention. In the first instance, the nation was never aware that there would be an airport expansion. They got wind after the contract was signed in Jamaica.
Then allegations of corruption involving the parent company of the contractor surfaced. The government, in the face of the allegations, said that it was putting the contract on hold. Lo and behold the project gets underway even as the government says that it is on hold.
Then there are the pharmaceutical contracts that have caused the major supplier to proclaim that he prices his drug supplies and it is up to anyone to buy. The government has options but insists on remaining with this supplier. Surely the people have a right to smell and to see a rat.