Business

Christie defends his tough stance

BY NEKIESHA REID Business reporter

Wednesday, September 26, 2012    

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CONTRACTOR General Greg Christie defended his work on the eve of his departure from office, calling those who have described him as overzealous, “misguided”.

As an independent authority of parliament, the contractor general has responsibility for ensuring that government contracts are issued transparently, based on merit, and free from corruption.

Corruption is the largest impediment to economic growth and development and should be fought aggressively and impartially, said Christie, who leaves his post in two months.

“In a politically tribal and polarised country”, corruption cannot be fought effectively by leaders who are reluctant to offend or who “wish to become friends with everyone”, he said.

“The OCG has pushed and is still pushing the envelope in the effective and efficient discharge of its mandates to the extent the laws have allowed,” he said at the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ) chairman's club forum in New Kingston yesterday.

The Office of the Contractor General (OCG) has been transformed as a result, making substantial progress in the fight to eliminate fraud, impropriety and waste from government contracting and licensing in the island, he said.

More government contracts have been monitored during his time in office, for example; 11,000 each year, up from 350 contracts at most in previous years.

Compared to the three-year period before his appointment, when only two investigations were conducted, 58 investigations, 40 enquiries and 24 audits have been conducted in the past seven years, he said.

“Since 2010, as many as 80 works contractors have been removed from the National Contracts Commission's register of approved contractors, with some referred by us to the Fraud Squad for criminal investigation,” he said.

The transformed OCG has contributed to the well-being of the Jamaican society, said PSOJ President Christopher Zacca.

“Despite his perceived intemperance and overzealousness have been criticised in various segments of society, [Christie] has brought the issue of corruption to the forefront,” he said.

But continuing the battle against this type of wrongdoing is paramount, especially since less corruption will result in increased economic growth.

“One study of foreign direct investment estimates that corruption is equivalent to a 20 per cent tax to foreign investors,” he said, noting that it is a regressive tax.

But until a “bold, new, forthright, and honest political dispensation that is prepared to do right by Jamaica” comes forward, nothing of substance would be achieved, Christie said.

Challenges will remain for the OCG until, among other things, it is granted the power to conduct criminal investigations; it is entrenched in the Constitution to protect it from arbitrary political interference; and it is given budgetary independence from the Ministry of Finance, he said.

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