As a teenager visiting the Plaza cinema to watch Kung Fu movies, there was always at least one unruly person who put his feet on the chair in front of him and behaved badly. During those times, I would wonder where the adults were.
I remember promising myself that when I reached 30 years of age, I would be the adult whom I expected to intervene. Since reaching that milestone, I have tried to keep that promise in defense of others. It is one of the reasons why I entered politics, and is the main reason why I write these weekly articles.
During my career, I have witnessed much wickedness in high places. The level of corruption is so shocking that anyone reading about it could not be faulted for concluding that it was fiction.
In 1995, Transparency International (TI) published their first Corruption Perceptions Index report, which exposed the extent of corruption globally. They published their second report in 1996. The Caribbean was not included in these early reports, but it was only a matter of time before TI would focus on the Caribbean.
In an act of pure coincidence, in 1997 our parliamentarians effectively discouraged any public discussion of corruption by passing the Defamation Act. Under this act, anyone who revealed genuine cases of corruption, with incontrovertible evidence, could be found guilty of defamation and punished accordingly. However, the Act protects politicians if they talked about it in parliament.
Not long ago, I attended a committee meeting of a statutory corporation, where some members were formally discussing giving a no-bid contract to a contractor. I stated that what they were proposing was corruption. There was a very heated exchange – the fellow actually rose to his feet to fight me. They seemed completely unaware of what corruption actually was, but were highly offended at being associated with it.
The corrupt operate in the secret political economy, which is normally exclusively reserved for political supporters in exchange for bribes. The way of corruption is for Ministers to instruct that no-bid contracts should be awarded to specific companies.
Inexperienced Ministers tend to deceive themselves by their good intentions. They tend to stumble onto the path of corruption by trying to justify allowing no-bid contracts. The current BLP administration has many inexperienced Ministers just waiting to stumble, and I am trying my best to prevent them from falling.
A root cause of our economic problems is the corrupting practise of Ministers directing no-bid contracts. The DLP made themselves highly offensive with that deplorable practise over the past decade. Shockingly, the BLP appear to be carrying on where the DLP left off, but in an even more brazen manner, as if that were even possible.
Last week, many BLP parliamentarians delighted their supporters by accusing the last DLP administration of gross corruption. Ironically, during the same week, the BLP appeared to play the hypocrite by announcing several major no-bid contracts, and they had the gall to boast about it. No! No! No! No! No! and ten thousand times No! We simply cannot go down that road again. All of this austerity cannot be in vain.
Has the BLP learnt nothing from the DLP’s unconscionable behaviour? Why is the government persisting, even more brazenly, with this corrupting political economy? Why is the government intentionally disqualifying competent companies from tendering for tax-payer funded projects? Why is the government shielding politically favoured companies from competing? Are the Ministers aware that when they give no-bid contracts, the public tends to pay many times over for the resulting bad work and bad advice?
Let me write directly to the BLP’s inexperienced parliamentarians. We have been here many times before. We are sick of the ‘good intentions’ excuses that have been used to justify keeping a political economy for the exclusive use of the Party’s politically protected companies. The end never justifies the corrupting means – ever.
I implore you to reject the political economy and the way of the corrupting no-bid contracts. Those who go down that road rarely find their way back, since they sell their souls to the master corrupter who will not easily let them go. Expect some political supporters to demand their pre-paid share of the political economy from you.
They will pressure you to award them no-bid contracts with the typical excuse of urgency. Once you have been tricked into starting down that dark road, the nation will suffer. Companies who bully their way to the trough of the political economy, knowingly disqualify the most competent companies from tendering on government contracts. They should be utterly ashamed of themselves.
You will also be pressured into believing that it is specialist work that only they can do. Unless they own the patent, or have an exclusive-use contract for the technology, then that is a well-worn lie from the very pit of hell. Why not challenge their ridiculous assertion by allowing a competitive tender? What is the possible benefit to yourselves or the country of disqualifying the country’s most competent companies from tendering? I expect an answer to this question from each of you.
There is no right way to do wrong things, and giving no-bid major contracts is definitely wrong. Further, giving no-bid contracts in a depressed economy is so far beyond wrong as to qualify as satanic.
I implore you, repent of this evil and do right things. In your manifesto, every one of you promised, on your sacred honour, that you would provide a Contractor General to review government contracts and those of State Owned Enterprises. You have had enough time to establish this critical post, yet you have failed to do so. What happened? Was this another initiative that must be a sacrificed casualty of the unnecessary BERT austerity plan? Have you even read that secret plan?
Your options are simple. Either repent and terminate those corrupting no-bid contracts and allow a fair tender process, or be deceived with your ‘good intentions’ and continue down the road to hell.
Grenville Phillips II is a Chartered Structural Engineer and President of Solutions Barbados. He can be reached at NextParty246@gmail.com