IN the last 20 months, convolutions in society and people's patience seem in sync. Would it were not so. In the hills they say phone, cable, light working OK, but "...please tell Sista P bout the water and roads".
I got depressing news of town. It seems democracy may be undermined by the same institutions which make it strong. Special interest groups (SIGs) are good for democracy, but not every time. Parties and unions may become as anti-democratic as pro-life and environment groups too. Some trade unions in the USA were once controlled by the mob to the detriment of workers and employers. Here some public service groups in the state sector seem mired in conflict of interest, corruption by access to large value with no accountability. Will they help their funders? Why would men disgrace themselves and their families for a public service office, money, power? Miss Brinnil told me a lot, so read on. Things are not what they seem. The OCG knows more value is reaped from public bodies than meets the eye, and they should now monitor public service, lobby groups and the members in the national interest. I went to be refreshed, but came back to town with bad news and a heavy heart.
Public service entities in the private sector include trade unions and associations, and their conduct is circumspect. Clubs as Rotary, Kiwanis do their duty, change leadership without scandal or taint of corruption. They spend millions of dollars on projects and charity, represent many, have vibrant campaigns, but with decorum. I never thought the day would come when ethics were higher in private bodies. Why do some groups in public service around the civil service not obey the rules of propriety, decency and probity? Does our silence give them consent? Public service entities specialise in the environment, children, ganja, diaspora, diabetes, road safety, abortion, and may engender intellectual arrogance with no compromise. We have seen terrorism by experts on child care issues, and watched Lisa Hanna joust with interest groups that seem to have perfect solutions. Lisa executes her duty of care in an imperfect, cash-strapped nation. Can conversation bridge the gap between perfection and penury? There are no perfect solutions, so the moot is what will the meagre resources get our needy children?
SIGs which have a scientific-type remit may be research-bound, inflexible and dogmatic. Most interest groups are adversarial to governments; none to the private sector. Their gospel is, Cabinets act against the public interest so they have to protect citizens. A bit over the top, but we must compromise. What is the role of an interest group in national plans? Who has the high ground, the elected or the SIG? Pressure groups are usually privileged protecting privilege or using know-how on behalf of us all. Those not otherwise privileged become so by association. Which group tackles abuses by private firms? Most exist to pressure Cabinets. Do they enhance democracy? Yes! Do they cramp democracy? At times. Is their dogma as important as national interest? Maybe, but it's a decision between now or then, and our disadvantaged have no tomorrow if not today.
The late Hugo Chavez planned to withdraw from a Latin American human rights body as he thought it a channel through which foreigners undermined policy. Many groups wish to get a slice of state power without going to the polls -- the list of men who want to be paid by taxpayers is long. Some groups use strength of numbers, cash, education to get there. Most are elites who wrest privileges for their members from the state. Others embed themselves in state agencies and may hinder progress or favour their own. Law of the jungle, my friend.
Goat Islands issue sees pressure exerted on Cabinet by many SIGs driven by expertise without accountability. Shrill voices, a conflict of decibels. Goat Islands is not holy ground. It is land of Taino genocide (not one monument in their honour?) given to black people and God. Two benefits contend. To enjoy omelette you must break eggs. To break and conserve can be proportionate. Get the facts, have the conversation on economics, environment and "livity". Darwin is not static; neither is economics and investment. Families hold back some kids so one can achieve -- the result of scarce resources. In life few get 100 per cent. We need compromise more than ever, and frankly, SIGs can no longer be left to their own devices.
The OCG and Electoral Commission must now act. Officers set-on by politricks to drape-up my computer and trawl my drives were thorough. I lived in other countries, never humiliated -- only in Jamaica. OCG tackle pressure groups now. They protect members, not the public, and those in state agencies are privy and may be hijacked by evil men. Some milk the taxpayer; what of institutional corruption? Do protocols exist so a member or beneficiary is not on a government team negotiating with their same group? Does the benefit of the doubt go against the taxpayer, "it's not your money so why are you fussing?" Who vets negotiators? Results? A long dead man's notes on a file may be the authority on which millions of our taxes are paid to group members today. The cost of being uncurious is staggering. Who audits these bits across agencies? Did you know a political party was interested in funding a man to lead a pressure group? I work in town and did not. One man said: "We applauded the people's choice, but now we repent a stolen presidency. Nine million dollars buys a lot of support." Woe is me.
The day of benign pressure groups is past. Parliament must pass robust laws to regulate interest and lobby groups to protect public funds and our interests. We must empower a National Negotiating Agency (NNA) whose independent members pass "fit & proper" tests to broker, review, moderate all contracts and the changes ( "soft" agreements too) before they take effect. Taxpayers lose billions in legal contracts. Some criticise business, but being public service or non-profit is no barrier to corruption. Some SIGs have members embedded in core state functions and may affect major policy. Taxpayers need a champion. The OCG should excise this incest; allow no creep in terms for the contract's life. SIGs should be compliant, leaders accountable, polls monitored, funding transparent and equitable. When you purchase a president for millions, this is a Manchurian candidate; an insider to frustrate a Cabinet's plans. When a member is on the state's team to negotiate, sanction, recommend, or award, who checks? Who cares? Institutional corruption is so normal we don't notice it. "Wha yu ah worri bout it always do dis way!" Granny Brinnil have cellphone now! More news to come. Stay conscious, my friend!
Dr Franklin Johnston is a strategist, project manager and advises the minister of education. firstname.lastname@example.org