Editorial

Now you're talking, Mr Christie!

Thursday, May 17, 2012    

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WE have, in this space, what you might loosely call a love-hate relationship with the Office of the Contractor General (OCG) and its boss, Mr Greg Christie.

At one and the same time, we are among the biggest supporters of Mr Christie, and yet also among those who have been most disappointed by his tendency to be egoistic and a tad bombastic at times.

Since we hold no one as perfect, we like to give Mr Christie the benefit of the doubt, if only because we are ourselves so fed up with the depth of corruption in this country which he has devoted much of his time to battling.

We are convinced that it cannot be left to men to do what is right, and that there has to be systems in place to help keep people on the straight and narrow path.

And yet, let it never be said of us that we have lost all faith in human beings. In this country, there are men and women who have walked between the raindrops and set their faces firmly against corruption and graft. If we know what is good for us, let us cherish them and honour them.

We speak now of men such as Professor Gordon Shirley, the Hon R Danny Williams, OJ and Mr Everton McDonald, the designated members of the Independent Oversight Panel (IOP) for three major infrastructural projects on which the Government is pinning hopes for some economic progress — the North-South Link of Highway 2000, the Gordon Cay Container Trans-shipment Hub, and the Fort Augusta Container Terminal.

The panel was established in conflict, as the Administration insisted it would not subject developments so critical to the nation to the timetable of one man — the Contractor General. There is great logic in this. And it is our view that the cynicism expressed by some people against this position has its genesis in the poor record of politicians.

But Mr Christie, having at first shrugged his shoulders at the appointment of those gentlemen, has since 'wheeled and come again'. He is now requiring that the panel routinely submit to him formal written reports outlining the particulars of all of its deliberations and communications in respect of the projects involved.

Forget the tone of his missive, we think that he is also being reasonable in asking the panel to "regularly furnish his office, in arrears, copies of all the reports which it will submit to the Ministry of Transport, Works and Housing and the Cabinet; and to advise the OCG how it will discharge its assigned functions, and how and in what manner it proposes to liaise with, and secure, the required approvals of the ministry's permanent secretary..."

Interestingly, the Anglican Lord Bishop-elect of Jamaica and Cayman Islands, Rev Dr Howard Gregory, is reported as saying that the Cabinet has been guilty of the same tardiness in approving projects, of which the OCG is being accused.

So while he understands the Government's reason for setting up the IOP, that is, the expeditious negotiation and settlement of certain contracts related to special projects, as well as the fact that such a facility can mean savings in monetary expenditures and taking advantage of opportunity costs, Bishop Gregory is urging the Administration to rethink the creation of the panel.

We too have expressed our concern that the Government does not ignore the OCG, but we disagree with the Bishop's call to forego the panel. If we had all along entrusted men of integrity to carry out our national business, we would have had no need for an OCG.

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