It is no secret the blogmaster fell in love with late Prime Minister David Thompson’s sweet mouth. He seemed earnest about his public spiritedness, especially addressing the introduction of integrity and freedom of information laws. He ran a Democratic Labour Party (DLP) campaign based on a promise to attack corruption in public life. He led the DLP to victory in 2008 and although he fell sick and eventually died in 2010, there was an expectation among the electorate the DLP would have and should have delivered on the promise to enact transparency legislation. A manifesto is a social contract and should mean something to HONOURABLE men and women?Continue reading
he recently defeated Integrity in Public Life Bill (Integrity Bill) will not trouble the scores. Despite the fake Oscar-contention outrage of our senators, if the bill had passed, it would simply have made corruption legal in Barbados. That is how terrible the bill was designed.
At first, the bill specified that a person could not be investigated for corruption after they had retired from public life for 2 years. So, a person who received a bribe in January 2018 and then retired, cannot be investigated after February 2020.
A sloppy bribe may be uncovered by a financial audit, but the 2018 accounts are audited in 2019. The earliest the Auditor General will look at the 2019 audited accounts is in 2020, after the fellow has retired. How convenient. Perhaps the time has come to ask our politicians and senators, why they would champion such a farce.
After Solutions Barbados explained the farce, the final Bill increased the time where no investigations can happen, to 5 years. That is also useless in Barbados, since the Auditor General provides his annual report of many issues that are more than five years old. A short limit on investigating corruption is a glaring loophole for guilty persons.
The Integrity Bill will likely cost taxpayers $5M each year, to recover less than $50,000. It is a farce. It conveniently ignores the estimated $100M of corrupting no-bid contracts each year. The Integrity Bill is wasteful, ineffective, and practically useless for Barbados. Consider the following scenario.
A company bribes a person to get a no-bid contract. The company charges the Government five times the normal value of the work, which Barbadians must pay in higher taxes (that is why most Barbadians live hand-to-mouth). The bribe may be paid in any of the following ways.
1. Paying his election advertising expenses.
2. Building a house, and transferring ownership five years after he retires.
3. Purchasing land, and transferring ownership five years after he retires.
4. Purchasing financial instruments that mature five years after he retires.
5. Funding community projects in his constituency.
6. Paying money to his friends.
7. Selling him property (eg. car, house, etc) at a significant discount.
8. Paying for the renovation of his house.
9. Paying his children’s educational costs.
10. Hiring consultants and employees whom he recommends.
11. Hiring him as a consultant five years after he retires.
12. Procuring and managing a business (eg restaurant or store), and transferring ownership to his family five years after he retires.
There are hundreds of similar ways of paying and receiving bribes. Our useless Integrity Bill is conveniently designed to avoid all of them. Worse, the Integrity bill does not address any of the common methods of political corruption.
Forcing the public to make payments to consultants that only benefit one political party, is political corruption. The payments are normally made to political supporters, who may be disguised as: public relations, media, information technology, security, or financial advisors.
Solutions Barbados recommended an effective anti-corruption policy. It is based on the proven method of rewarding whistle-blowers, as an incentive to blow the whistle. We planned to reward them with the total value of the bribe. We also planned to fine both the bribe givers and the bribe takers, to pay for the policy.
The whistle-blowers already know about the corrupt activities. They include: tellers who did the bank transactions, contractors who renovated the houses, lawyers who drafted the contracts, accountants who did the audits, and vendors who sold the properties. Employees of the department that gave the no-bid contract, and the company that paid the bribe, also know.
The Government is planning to pass a whistle-blower protection bill, but there is no reward incentive. Instead, the exposed whistle-blower gets to keep working in the now toxic work environment, until it takes its foreseen emotional health toll. What a farce of an incentive.
It is time for our politicians and senators to stop giving us false hopes. If they do not plan to reward whistle-blowers, and abolish corrupting no-bid contracts, then at least be honest with Barbadians. Passing an ineffective Integrity Bill is not in the public’s best interest. However, it is good political advice, that benefits only one political party.
Grenville Phillips II is a Chartered Structural Engineer and President of Solutions Barbados. He can be reached at NextParty246@gmail.com
The following was posted to the Poster War Page by BU commenter Sunshine Sunny Shine
The Code of Silence on the CL Financial bailout in Trinidad and Tobago emphasizes Caricom’s inability to efficiently regulate pan Caribbean companies. Also exposes corruption which is endemic in both the political class and private sector – Barbados Underground
The inability of the authorities in Trinidad AND Barbados to fully unravel the CL Financial mess and by extension CLICO in Barbados shines a bright light on an inadequate regional governance system. There is also the insight to be gained by Barbadians from a Trinidad jurisdiction where Transparency Legislation is enacted and operationalized. What have we learned that has forced to improve how pan-Caribbean institutions are regulated.
Submitted by Terence Blackett
ITAL has become a compelling and necessary component for any true democracy to flourish. Accountability and transparency have become vogue words that need to be defined contextually or they lose their meanings by overuse or generality. These ITAL components have been used in a variety of political, constitutional, legal, financial, institutional and sometimes ethical and moral contexts.
The political climate within democratic nation-states had changed radically during the early 1980’s, in terms of politics and governments placing more emphasis on providing for public accountability through new processes of open government. The legal framework was meant to provide a wider accountability to executive government and to the general business and social communities. However, its effectiveness in relation to accountability of government institutions to the public in general, as opposed to individual members of the public in their role as clients of government services still remains a highly volatile issue. Barbados is one such nation state where after 47 years of independence – continue to languish behind in adopting a clearly defined strategy for implementing ITA Legislation. Clients of government services still remains a highly volatile issue. It cannot be underscored that there are important implications for our understanding of accountability as a catalyst for change in modern states and their wider application in civil society but also as a medium for curtailing and redressing institutional anomalies. As government, private and public policies change, issues of governance and regulation become increasingly important, including privatisation and devolution, raising new questions about our understanding of accountability and in particular the balance of rights and powers of workers, vulnerable people and institutions.
Some of the BIG questions being asked, for example are: whether new forms of governance are changing public and democratic accountability? How far does government regulation compromise or enhance accountability within the market and economic framework? Does accountability in the public and private sector differ, and is the public interest safeguarded adequately in either case? How do organizations account at the same time to shareholders, employees and the public while being open and ethical?
Barbadians should follow closely what Afra Raymond, the T&T blogger and social commentator, has to say on the issue of transparency in government in Trinidad. Barbados has been promised that an Integrity Commission will be installed soon and there is optimism in some quarters this represents the final piece of the puzzle. The fact that Trinidad is ahead of Barbados by enacting transparency legislation and Afra Raymond has to play the role he does is insightful.
It is appropriate BU returns to the issue of Freedom of Information (FOI) on the second anniversary of death of former Prime Minister David Thompson. The promise that FOI and Integrity Legislation would have been introduced by this government early in its term swayed BU and we supported the DLP in 2007. Sadly the government has not demonstrated the political will to implement transparency legislation. Five years later it is fair to describe the promise as a gimmick to win votes.
Election manifesto is a statement by a political party,explaining what it will do if they win the elections.Through election manifesto the voters come to know about the policies of the political party they are going to vote for.They can easily think that which party will prove the best for them,they can decide that with whose policies they want to go.therefore an election manifesto is very important – WIKI
Political parties the world over will make promises to an expectant electorate. Based on the ‘complexion’ of the political climate these promises are as outlandish as they come and bear no relationship to the reality of getting the promises implemented if the party is elected.
To be fair to political parties there is nothing wrong with using a manifesto to ‘promise’ what it will do if elected. What must be challenged is the need to establish a ‘check’ for John Citizenry to exact accountability. Why shouldn’t the electorate feel comfortable knowing that the UWI, Cave Hill, Fourth Estate and other entities in civil society have the credibility to challenge, clarify and demystify promises made by political parties on the campaign trail? Why should John Citizenry not have recourse in the law to recall ministers and members of parliament who they are perceived to have under-achieved?
Submitted by Old Onion Bags
The call has been made umpty times now on BU for Barbados to have a Contractor General. For those wondering what are the duties of such a noble sounding executive officer, in a nutshell….”to assist government in the fair advertising, soliciting, and final disbursements of contracts for services and purchase of major worth.” More detailed….
The Contractor General is given the onus to monitor the award and the implementation of government contracts with a view to ensuring that —
such contracts are awarded impartially and on merit;
the circumstances in which each contract is awarded or, as the case may be, terminated, do not involve impropriety or irregularity;
without prejudice to the functions of any public body in relation to any contract, the implementation of each such contract conforms to the terms thereof; and
to monitor the grant, issue, suspension or revocation of any prescribed licence, with a view to ensuring that the circumstances of such grant, issue, suspension or revocation do not involve impropriety or irregularity and, where appropriate, to examine whether such licence is used in accordance with the terms and conditions thereof. (Courtesy Jamaica’s Office of Contractor General).
Barbadians were ready to change the government last general election for several reasons, an obvious third term lethargy at the top of the list. It did not stop the Opposition Democratic Labour Party (DLP) from promising the sky and the 7 seas. One platform promise which resonated and persuaded many Independents to vote DLP was Freedom of Information (FOI) and Integrity Legislation (IL). Barbadians like many around the world became intoxicated by the message of hope promised by Obama, we bought into the same message of the late David Thompson and his team.
On the 20 November 2007 a resolution was laid by the late Prime Minister David Thompson in the House of Assembly giving his support to IL and FOI legislation to be drafted as soon as possible. We are about to enter anther general election five years later and ….If the government were to rush this legislation to book before the bell is rung one wonders if it would not be a dishonest act.
Barbados Underground (BU) is on record admitting to having bought into the Thompson message of enacting transparency legislation to improve governance in Barbados. To say we are sorely disappointed by the lack of priority given by this government to enacting transparency legislation would be an accurate statement. Five years later there is not even the sense, if we listen to members of parliament from the government side, that transparency legislation is top of mind.
The month of November seems appropriate to blog about transparency in government. Thirty plus years ago the Tom Adams led Barbados Labour Party (BLP) attempt to proclaim Integrity Legislation was still born. The incumbent Democratic Labour Party (DLP) government – led by the late Prime Minister David Thompson – promised Barbadians within 100 days of being elected Integrity and Freedom of Information Legislation would have been a priority. One wonders how MP Mara Thompson feels when she reflects on the promise made by her late husband to Barbadians.
In fairness to the DLP, a lukewarm attempt was made to read the anti-Corruption Bill but both political parties have cried foul. The bill when last we checked was languishing in a sub committee of parliament. BU is not sure what is the status of the proposed Freedom of Information bill.
That both parties would conspire to mamaguy Barbadians about their intention to introduce transparency legislation is instructive. The fact we are still to mature as a nation by crafting a governance system which holds politicians accountable, contradicts the billions we have invested in education post-Independence. Introducing transparency legislation does not call for any significant demand on the treasury of Barbados. What possibly could be the reason successive governments have delayed enacting Integrity and Freedom of Information legislation?
There has been some comment about the decision of the government to construct a tomb like monument in memory of late Prime Minister. What is the hullabaloo? The late David Thompson – whether you agreed with his politics or not – was the sixth Prime Minister of Barbados, a historical fact. He died in office and all the trappings of the office of Prime Minister he even in death, and his family should benefit.
BU suspects what some on the other side maybe questioning is the timing of the project which is scheduled to be completed to coincide with the first anniversary of the death of Thompson on October 23. When the Tomb Project is assessed along with the announcement of The David Thompson Memorial Football Tournament to be played this month, it gives wings to the view that there is some political motive at play. While it can be rationalized that each project has merit, the timing of the two projects makes it difficult to deny a political undercurrent to the decision.
With a less visible role for Hartley Henry, one can’t be sure if political strategy is being seriously practiced by the Fruendel Stuart administration. What should be obvious, even to to the least discerning of politicos, it is unlikely the government can run on its track record given the harsh economic times it has had to operate. This is understandable and the government will have to build advantage over the opposition in the minds of the electorate in the weeks and months leading to the next general election.
Submitted by Eli Davis
Every so often I get the urge to contribute (?) a comment to this forum that I believe merits attention. This time around it is that of The Business of the Political Campaign and its Financing. It is an issue that is basic in determining the relevance of our electoral process and, as a result of the moneyed interests involved, is the most difficult of topics to have discussed in public.
Few people would know that a study on this topic was commissioned by the OAS back in 2003 and resulted in a report that was published about three years later. My concern with the entire topic has to do with whether or not it is an appropriate topic for consideration in our current political environment that has demonstrated little in the furtherance of the long term viability of our peoples and nation states.
Basically, in my view anyway, a political party is simply an (legal?) entity that seeks to gain administrative control over the funds in the Treasury, and that’s it. How these are spent and on whom form the essence of the business of the party. The business requires that the populace be deceived into supporting the party campaign and once successful, that control over the funds be maintained for as long as possible.
Submitted by Hamilton Hill
This past June we saw where BLP candidate Indar Weir submitted a video montage to this site, and given the variance of comment shook to the core the social conscience of a nation. At first look I thought that these were images left in the wake of tropical storm Tomas. Then I opted to raise the volume and quickly came to the realization that this was not done by the hands of Mother Nature, but through blatant political neglect, fed and fostered by the passage of Father Time.
Quite unlike a few who contribute here this episode for me was personal rather than partisan, for I know poverty. Like my shadow it has been an accompaniment for all of the fifty three years granted me so far. This montage represented a stinging indictment against every GQ looking, Essence Imaged trend setting soul that climbs the steps to our Parliament, seemingly oblivious to circumstances that in some instances are reminiscent of places like Somalia.
The news that the Prevention of Corruption Bill has been sent to a Joint Committee of parliament for deliberation has not come as a surprise to many. It is only naïve Barbadians who expect politicians to proclaim integrity legislation in this century or the next. The promise by the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) to deliver integrity legislation in 100 days has finally been exposed for what it always was, an election gimmick. Culpable as well has been the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) Opposition who have been relatively silent on the matter.
The promise made by Opposition member of parliament Dale Marshall that it is hoped a revamped bill will emerge from the joint committee quickly, must be taken with several grains of salt. In fact, it should probably be dismissed as an untruth delivered with the confidence of a politician who knows the tolerance threshold of Bajans to be passive.
It is more than one year Barbadians have waited for a ruling on the David Estwick/Dale Marshall gun issue. Subject to correction the matter was referred to the Committee of Privileges by Speaker Michael Carrington and that is the last heard of the matter. Is it any wonder there is a growing cynicism and lack of confidence about the inner workings of our democracy and politics in Barbados by young people? Many literate Bajans believe that a true measure of our democracy is the ability to vote.
Submitted as a comment by Crusoe to the Prime Minister Fruendel Speaks To The Nation, AGAIN blog
The diatribes above actually do contribute to good exchange of banter, even if politically motivated. The above highlights what the ‘average Joe’ is very annoyed at, such as unexplainable project expenditures, lack of transparency and accountability and a complete disregard of voter wishes.
As Halsall has referred to, this administration committed, yes committed, to a Freedom of Information and Transparency Legislation on its entry into this term. There is no excuse for the delay in this. They got the Judicial Legislation changed for their appointee fast enough.
Secondly, cost overruns etc. have not been explained and no attempt has been made to enable this nor to enable explanation and evidence of future projects for the average voter. As government is supposed to represent the people for the good of the country, this is a disgrace, by both parties.
Thirdly, while the current administration supports running on about 3S, it must be noted that the marina project appears to have been given to the highest bidder, amidst resignations from the independent directors of the same project. Without due explanation and with an impending legal case as a result, from an alternate contractor, that is highly worrying from a voter perspective and does not give that ‘warm and fuzzy feeling’ that a citizen should have on his taxpayers monies being spent well. Is this another botched project? Slated to cost 700MM but will probably eventually cost 1.2Billion?
The aforementioned must be the bedrock of any modern democracy if we are to keep politicians and government officials are above corruption. Corruption is now recognized as one of the world’s greatest challenges. It is a major hindrance to sustainable development and is corrosive on the very fabric of society. Its disproportionate impact on poor communities is considerable, curbing economic growth, distorting competition, and representing serious legal risks. Technically, corruption covers an entire host of abuses, of which graft is one. Graft and corruption are charges that are typically levelled at highly-placed government officials, who are able to use public funds to improve their own fortunes due to increased access, influence, knowledge or power that comes with an elevated position. An official engaging in bribery, nepotism, embezzlement, extortion or graft is guilty of abuse of public trust at minimum, and may often be charged with a crime.
Graft is defined as a use of public stature to gain illegal benefit. For instance, a senator who sits on the armed services committee in the U.S. senate cannot use his knowledge of military contracts to buy stock in a defense contractor’s company. His position gives him unfair advantage over other investors. It is similar to the notion of insider trading in business.