Mr Greg Christie's departure: should we be laughing or crying?

Friday, September 28, 2012    

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Mr Greg Christie, the contractor general, this week gave what was clearly his farewell speech to the Chairman's Forum of the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ). We didn't know whether to laugh or cry.

In the speech, Mr Christie effusively praised himself and his staff for staging a major assault on corruption in Jamaica, even while he suggested that the Office of the Contractor General was akin to a "toothless bulldog".

When he departs the office, there will be much introspection and those who have long hated the awful role corruption has played in holding back this country's development might even accept Mr Christie's leaving with some sadness.

In our view, there will be two groups of Jamaicans who will be sad to see him go, but for two different reasons.

The first group is comprised of those persons who welcomed Mr Christie with open arms and have been delighted by his courage and the doggedness with which he approached the job, especially in regard to the monitoring of the government's contracts award and procurement process. These persons have supported the contractor general unconditionally.

The second group comprises those Jamaicans whose reception of Mr Christie was equally enthusiastic. They admired and lauded his courage and commitment to the assault on corruption.

But in this group are persons who have watched with great disappointment and growing disillusionment as the contractor general allowed this overwhelming support for his office to go to his head and to feed into his insatiable appetite for media attention. This, by itself, could easily be forgiven as human, and we are still searching for the perfect one.

But what was more difficult to ignore was the contractor general's penchant for rushing to the public with even the most spurious and unsubstantiated claims of wrongdoing.

Like it or not, when one's name is dragged through the mud, even after it is proven that it was done unjustifiably, the damage is done. A hard-won reputation can be destroyed in an instant by merely publishing an allegation.

We had always hoped that Mr Christie would resist the temptation to have people tried in the court of public opinion before they were tried in a court of law. He chose shaming before investigation and that hurt his office grievously.

So sure was he of himself that he could never be wrong about anything, that he rejected the right of even the director of public prosecutions to a finding that was not in his favour, in the case involving allegations against Messrs Ian Moore and Stephen Wedderburn in the LNG saga.

When Mr Christie had to fire three members of staff of the OCG for corruption that was going on right under his very nose, we had hoped that it would temper his approach because he must have seen how easily false claims could be made by detractors that he, too, was corrupt.

In his case, he did a very thorough investigation and did not disclose that he was doing so until he was ready to publicise his findings. That is all we were asking him to do where others were concerned, and we are to this day flabbergasted that he refused so to do.

Still, we remain firmly in support of an anti-corruption agency and we sincerely hope that his successor would strive might and main to avoid the pitfalls which so sullied the performance of Mr Christie.





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