Bukka Rennie

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Crime is crime

August 10, 2002
By Bukka Rennie

Reading the Auditor General's report on the kind of collective criminal irresponsibility displayed by the previous Cabinet of this country in the manner in which they chose to manage this country's affairs and in particular the granting of road-paving contracts to friends and party supporters via Tidco, brought back to memory a number of things.

Like when Joe Dog in Tunapuna was a Special Works foreman and he would stand before his workmen with pebbles in his hand and say: "Silver, you go wuk from here to dey" - and he tossed a pebble and the measure of Silver's task would end wherever that pebble fell.

And Joe Dog would continue: "Lincoln Hot, from dey to dey" - and away went another pebble. And so on and so forth down the line. But, dear friends, that was merely the crude management of what in reality was a dole system.

One also heard that in the days of the NAR regime a particular Minister would call in contractors to his office and hand out contracts; almost in a similar kind of "you do this and you do that" Joe Dog syndrome. And one could understand the Minister's then impatience with, and quest to overcome, bureaucratic red-tape.

But for a Minister to hand out one contract to the tune of $149 million without proper tendering procedure and without any regard to Public Service regulations and systems and structures of accounting has got to be downright criminal action.

Yet Carlos John disbursed contracts and monetary rewards for complying to middle management that all in all totalled close to $1 billion. And he is telling us today with pretended pride that he will do it all over again. What is this? We gone mad in this place?

Prophetically, I had warned in this column last year about such horror stories coming to light. I said then:

"...The most glaring examples of this form of corruption that will most certainly come to light in the near future, particularly if the Government changes after December 10, involves the use of statutory authorities like PTSC, Tidco, MTS, Nipdec, FCB, etc to cover all kinds of improper and illegal disbursement of taxpayers' monies, with total disregard for tendering procedures, even at times running afoul of conditionalities as mandated by well-established Public Service regulations and by international financial institutions such as the IDB and the World Bank.

"And of course there are the concomitant cases of the blatant rewarding of the middle-class managers of those statutory agencies who facilitated these transactions with lofty social positions and astronomical salaries and perks. Imagine $60,000 and $70,000 a month. For what?

"Every single Minister in this present regime, when they first came to office, requested a listing of all contracts given out by the respective ministries and any Permanent Secretary or accounting officer who was not prepared to play ball was either sent on extended leave, transferred and/or found himself/herself faced with a parallel 'PS on contract'/'personal advisor to Minister' who virtually took over the affairs of the ministry.

"The point is that 'contracts' are the obvious means through which the 'kickbacks', bribes and graft could be easily facilitated while, at the same time, the highly publicised and constant PR that accompanies the handing out of these contracts to do everyday tasks such as road-paving and bridge-building allows for the regime to 'talk performance'.

"Suddenly we have found ourselves with a central government taking over every single everyday task, emasculating local government authorities in the process, and blowing up the significance of, say, 're-paving and re-paving roads' to justify their kind of 'performance' and cover up their corrupt practices, while in the mean the country cries out for vision and direction from a central government whose membership, though filled with the smarts of plundering, stands sadly lacking in intellectual capacity.

The boss was right: Danraj was the best Minister! And if these middle-class managers/hustlers facilitate the illegal transactions under the veil of 'government contacts', then the lumpen in the ETP, besides doing cheaply the actual work required, provides extra-legal 'political muscle on the ground' for the regime, particularly in the Corridor. That is the scenario that has been forced on us since 1995..."

What many of us fail to comprehend is that crime begets crime.

Criminal activity by political and social leaders at the top, activity that disregards the law and imputes civic impropriety at the top, filters down to all levels of the society. "If the priest could play, who is we?"

If you could spend $1 billion illegally and get away, why someone else cannot rob somebody or kidnap somebody and demand $2 million?

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