Here are my thoughts on the Jamaican Government’s latest move to bypass the office of the Contractor General in getting specific initiatives underway. I wrote them in the form of a letter to the Editor and The Sunday Observer published the letter today:
Don’t sacrifice due process for expediency
Sunday, April 29, 2012
Rendering the role of the contractor general redundant by creating a commission to “expedite” well-needed investments and get projects up and running is not only a retrograde step, but it is moreso an extremely dangerous action.
It is dangerous in terms of the precedent that it will set, allowing Parliament to bypass legitimate organs of the State which were born out of the need to ensure that the tax dollar is spent in the best interest of the country and to ensure that all decisions that affect Jamaica can stand up to scrutiny. It is dangerous, too, given the fact that Jamaica has a legacy of corruption at all levels of society.
The fact that we have racked up massive debt over the last few decades with very little to show for it (think of our decaying physical infrastructure, think of the state of our health and education sectors) is testimony, I believe, to pervasive corruption even if we have not fingered specific individuals.
Let me be clear though, I agree with the notion that Jamaica does not have the luxury of time to sit, ponder, twist and turn when it comes to taking advantage of opportunities that can help to remedy our dire economic and social situation.
I insist that the need to act quickly and decisively, anlong with the need to ensure the presence of checks and balances to guarantee transparency and accountability, are objectives that are not at odds with each other. It is entirely possible for the various State bodies and agencies that are beholden to the citizens and taxpayers of this country and are indeed funded by our blood, sweat and tears, to operate in such a way that the twin ideals of action and accountability coexist to our benefit.
Let us consider what happens in the private sector. As entities grow there is a natural tendency for bureaucracy to set in, and process and form quietly replace that entrepreneurial spirit that propelled them forward in the early days. Indeed, there is a role for the evolution and implementation of policies, procedures and internal controls as the organisation grows and there is more at risk.
But those of us who work in the private sector have seen quick decisions and rapid fire execution when the leadership agrees that a particular initiative is critical to the growth and sustainability of the organisation. What happens is not a disregard for policies, procedures and internal controls, but rather a swift redeployment of resources within the organisation.
That results in the critical initiative being bumped to the top of everyone’s list of priorities and the relevant due diligence is done sooner rather than later, allowing for speedy decision-making and implementation. This is what we refer to as “fast-tracking”.
What I am therefore proposing is simple: once specific initiatives that will help grow the economy and satisfy social imperatives are identified, the notion of “fast-tracking” or speeding up things should kick in. Surely, it is not beyond our Parliament to agree on critical initiatives and to then convince the Office of the Contractor General — the organ of the State charged with ensuring that the tax dollar is spent in accordance with structures that have been set up to protect the taxpayer — of the need to expedite the relevant due diligence, allowing for the speedy decision-making and implementation that I spoke of just now.
Expediting here does not mean bypassing or overlooking. Expediting means allocating resources in such a way that agreed on priorities are dealt with sooner rather than later.
We ought not to sacrifice due process for expediency, and we don’t have to.