Jan 08, 2017 News
By Leonard Gildarie
Fighting corruption is not just good governance. It’s self-defense. It’s patriotism – US Vice President
Over the years, I have written extensively on how much money we are losing because of corruption and bribery. It is one of the biggest hurdles that have held back our development as a country, which should have been far ahead of the curve.
There are some estimates that say we lose as much at 60 percent of our state spending to corruption and tax evasion. Even one percent is too much.
We should have been way ahead of the game but, alas, our intentions were largely not genuine, and now we are fighting a scourge that has permeated our society…it seems almost all Government departments. It is deep seated. It will take a whole lot to root it out.
In recent days, a key report on the leaking of information to a drug supplier of the Health Ministry, and on mismanagement of the inventories of medical supplies, made its way into the newspapers.
The administration has made it clear that it is yet to consider the report and that the individuals mentioned have to be allowed due process. However, based on the report, it was disclosed that several persons, including senior officials and suppliers, testified during the Board of Inquiry hearings held in November.
This particular report would grant some deep insight into how our procurement system for state contracts is being manipulated.
A handful of persons, including contractors, have scoped out our systems and found the hole in the wall, and have been capitalizing.
The normal man in the street, if questioned, will tell you it is not his or her problem. They don’t have an understanding of the situation. It affects us all.
Hundreds of millions of dollars are lost every year because our supervisors did not pay attention; in most cases deliberately, because they have been bribed, and because the award of the contract itself was crooked. Some of the prices charged have been grossly inflated.
Guess where the extra money goes?
There are stories of contractors being forced to fork out a huge percentage of their advance payments to persons in the ministries and regional offices who would have colluded to manipulate the award of the contracts.
The fact is that the contractors, to ensure that they make a profit, will cut corners. That is why we have roads that crumble after a few mornings and buildings and other infrastructure that fail.
Government has been unable to pay increases to its workers because there essentially is no money available. Yet, officials can make a “mistake” and at the drop of a hat release more than $100M in error? Nobody makes such an error by mistake. Several persons failed in their duties in the process of checks and balances, and may now become jobless.
It had to take a whistleblower writing the President to spark the probe by the Board of Inquiry.
I like my money. I work hard for the little I have. I am careful how I spend it. I also am deeply concerned about my tax dollars.
It is a fact that many contractors, in addition to cutting corners, are not up to date with their taxes. Those that are current have largely found ways to beat the taxman by under-reporting their revenues. As a people, we have every right to be angry.
We continue to pass laws to target tax evaders and measures to strengthen our procurement systems. We must make it to our executives and gate-keepers that we can no longer tolerate a slap-on-the-wrist punishment for breaching our trust and abusing their offices. There has to be jail time.
We cannot jail robbers for five years for a $100,000 job yet allow our blue-collar boys and girls who steal millions of dollars to walk free.
This administration will do well to start looking at our engineers, and maybe hire more of them.
Something is wrong with the current crop.
We have to also start paying close attention to the people who are evaluating our tenders; that they are not hiding under the cover of their offices. Many of them are faceless and nameless.
There are so many stories being told of their work in helping to manipulate the contracts; of insider information given to contractors so that they could have an edge over competitors.
Enough said on this.
There was an idea floated at one of our editorial meetings to name the engineers and supervisors and contractors who are associated with state contracts. If they mess up, it is name and shame. The time for play is over.
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