Thu | Feb 21, 2019

Gordon Robinson | Petroscam tip of the iceberg

Published:Sunday | December 9, 2018 | 12:00 AM

Jamaicans are all hot and bothered over the recent auditor general's Petrojam report.

For sure, after reading the articles of the report only (no pictures), PNP has exposed a huge erection Playboy magazine publishers would've been proud to have caused. It's been lugging this erection around to any media outlet that will massage it.

Media have been no better. It can hardly contain its excitement at the naked expanse of available salaciousness. Most 'journalists', including those who've been at the profession long enough to know better, are diving deep into the whodunnit swimming pool. Some are going so far as to relieve themselves in the pool when they believe they've found a culprit upon whom they can safely unload.

Finger-pointing has become an Olympic sport. The PNP smells blood, and so is in full election-campaign mode. "See what mi a try fi tell you?" The PNP seems to be saying, "Mi did tell yu dem more corrup' dan we. Vote for me. I'll set you free!"

Sigh. Been there. Didn't do that! But some of you did. Corruption in the award of government contracts and licences, especially in the construction sector, was rife in the 1960s. So, in 1972, Jamaica voted for the PNP to set us free from corruption. Instead, we got the rise of the dons, more garrisons (Tivoli had started the trend), gun violence driven by politics, and by the need to control the fruits of political corruption and customs fraud.

In 1980, JLP didn't campaign on corruption but on ideology, so almost every elector in Jamaica voted for JLP to save us from communism. Nobody noticed that that bogeyman was an illusion and the JLP was being handed the steering wheel of political corruption.

So, in the 1980s, corruption continued unabated, especially in the popular area of government contracts and we got the Tarentum Coffee processing plant scandal. Remember when the lowest bidder for that construction job (the company still exists) was jettisoned for the second highest bidder - a company controlled by Jim Brown's sister? How's that processing plant doing now? As a sop to public outrage, Eddie Seaga's government created the Office of the Contractor General to investigate awards of government contracts and 'report' to Parliament. DWL. So, in 1989, Jamaica once again turned to the PNP to save us from corruption.

Here we go again.

She's back in town again.

I'll take her back again.

One more time!

 

PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT

 

ROFL! It's said practice makes perfect. It'd be embarrassing to reel off the outrageous series of corrupt practices perpetrated on duped Jamaican voters in the 1990s and early 'noughties'. Some of the 'scandals' may not have resulted from explicit corruption but, like Edwin Allen's chaotic Ministry of Education that 'lost' two schools in the 1960s, extreme incompetence or naivete might be a more damning indictment.

Remember the Shell waiver scandal? NetServ? Solutrea? Furniture for minister's homes? I could go on and on. The full will never be told.

Finally, in 2007, voters, weak from political abuse, turned to the JLP to save them from corruption. Mi Mumma! We got the mother of all scandals, namely the Dudus-Manatt, Phelps and Phillips extradition scandal! This caused all that went before to pale into insignificance. It resulted in the forced resignation of a Jamaican prime minister (Joshua had resigned for health reasons and P.J. for smooth succession) for the first time in history. Scandal-shocked, Jamaica returned to the PNP late in 2011 to save it from corruption.

Here we go again.

The phone will ring again.

I'll be her fool again.

One more time!

So we hugged up MORE corruption. There was an egregious abuse of authority at NHT called 'Outameni'. We experienced the EWI energy scandal, Hanover Parish Council scandal, and so on and so fifth. So, Jamaican voters tried yet again. They handed the reins of corruption to the JLP.

I've been there before

and I'll try it again.

But any fool knows

that there's no way to win.

Here we go again.

She'll break my heart again.

I'll play the part again.

One more time!

Heeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeereeeeeee's Petroscam!

What a surprise. Political hacks, unsupervised by their political godfathers (or maybe, who knows?), run riot with taxpayers money in an alleged oil-rich government corporation but one that, in reality, is losing money hand over fist. Nepotism; oral contracts for gazillions of dollars; multimillion-dollar fences (and a $17-million welcome to MoBay sign); opponents Scrooged on Christmas Eve and replaced by unqualified but highly paid friends ... . It goes on and on. AND WE STILL DON'T GET IT! Jeez, Louise!

Ray Charles Robinson (no relation) was a huge country music fan at a time when it wasn't exactly politically correct for a black man to like country. But Ray was blind to everything but good music, regardless of origin. So, in 1967, Ray gladly took Don Lanier/Red Steagall's country standard Here We Go Again and gave it his signature rhythm and blues treatment. Ray's version became the song's biggest commercial success and spent 12 consecutive weeks on Billboard's Top 100 charts.

 

SAME SOLUTION

 

I'll bet US$1 million to a stale donut that the PNP will come with the same solution. Vote for me and I'll set you free! I swear if any of my readers (I think I have at least five by now) swallows that undiluted crap from the PNP, I'll do something rash. It's time for sustainable, real, credible, systemic solutions to be proposed and implemented. NOW! Don't be distracted by petty pictures and exciting, sexy talk. FOCUS!

One of the first things to do about a sinking ship is to at least reduce avenues of leakage. So let's try to plug as many holes as we can:

Amend the Constitution to provide for a fixed number of Cabinet members (say, 12) with constitutionally named portfolios. Abolish the creature known as 'minister without portfolio'.

Stop pissing around the problem. Either crap or get off the pot. Eliminate 50 per cent of statutory agencies. Merge functions and, where possible, return them to central government ministries to be overseen by professional permanent secretaries. Now don't you start on me! These agencies are political slush funds for the enrichment of political friends and, through them, political parties. They're ugly, itching, cancerous warts on the necks and backs of the people that need to be excised NOW.

How do we choose which ones are to go? I don't care. Put the names in a hat and draw half of them if you like. Just get it done. NOW!

Introduce effective anti-corruption authorities INDEPENDENT of Parliament. On November 25, in a column assigned one of the most pathetic headlines of all time which I subsequently posted on my blog under the headline 'Do Something about Corruption Now', I wrote:

"Jamaica creates and facilitates corruption and then approaches crime (corruption's evil spawn) like a man who fights fire by pouring petrol on it. Or lights another fire and watches them fight each other. So we create an equally violent and corrupt JCF to pretend-fight corruption. We emasculate parliamentary anti-corruption commissions, and the Opposition's biggest concern is temporary appointments. Really? Seriously? When will Jamaica scientifically study crime as medicine studies bacteria and attacks its root (corruption) with designer antibiotics?

"We must create effective anti-corruption infrastructures, starting with constitutional safeguards, an independent Integrity Commission with teeth, dedicated investigators, prosecutors, and a separately staffed and funded anti-corruption court."

Instead, as I also wrote then, both sides seem intent on deepening the unconstitutional (in my opinion) control of taxpayers' money by MPs:

"The PM ... recently announced a $900-million Christmas work project (bush clearing, drain cleaning and road patching) which, according to The Gleaner, is to be 'driven by parliamentarians', whose 'role will primarily include directing the two implementing agencies - NSWMA and NWA'. The Gleaner further specified: 'Each constituency will receive $6 million for bush clearing and drain cleaning and $5 million for road patching.'

Both sides of Gordon House welcomed the announcement. Opposition Leader Peter Phillips' sole expressed concern was that MPs are 'hopeful' that the programme will help them address 'some portion of the tremendous demand' for work across their constituencies.

We nuh serious 'bout corruption!"

Let's get serious NOW. Please don't be distracted by Petroscam. Use Petroscam to insist that we take the concrete steps required to prevent future abuse at these intolerable levels and hopefully at all. Use Petroscam to force your political representatives to cease hiding behind a maze of statutory authorities and to stand up and be accountable for political decisions.

Don't leave it to the PNP or JLP. We must tell them what they must do. Or else.

Peace and love.

- Gordon Robinson is an attorney-at-law.

Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.