In 2016, when then Opposition Leader, Andrew Holness, pulled off an upset victory, in a nail-biter of a General Election, over the popular Portia Simpson-Miller-, led PNP, to form the next Government of Jamaica,, even his detractors, were on board to give him the benefit of the doubts that were swirling around him after questions were raised on the Campaign trail and in the press, surrounding his honesty.
Not many were satisfied with his explanation that those questioning the funding of his Beverly Hills mansion and other properties, were doing so, ‘because they were “badmind”’, as the available facts,, suggested that the questions that arose did so legitimately, as the Holnesses employment history, and what little was known of their investment portfolio, did not support their multimillion-dollar real-estate portfolio.
On the day of his swearing-in however, during his acceptance speech, in which he made a raft of promises, that included a Job description for Parliamentarians, many listening, thought we were at the dawning of a new day in the body-politic, that would be ushering in political accountability; an end to political corruption and possibly, the institution of political Term-Limits,.
Sadly, as the new Prime Minister and his team settled into office, it became clear, to most, maybe excepting the dyed-in-the-wool, card-carrying supporters of the Government, that not much would change in terms of Governance, under PM Holness, as excuses replaced the promised performance; corruption was explained away, by the odd notion that his majority was so slim, he could not risk alienating any of his MPs. And we saw Political Patronage, Cronyism, Nepotism, and Rank Partisanship creeping into all levels of the Administration, from the Office of the OPM to the Various Ministries and Plum Appointments that required Professionals to move the Country forward.
By the time the Covid Pandemic arrived on our shores, most of the PM’s vaunted policy prescriptions and promises for good governance had evaporated. Especially, the much-anticipated promise by the PM of providing a Job Description for his Cabinet Ministers.
But, we the people, especially the Voting People, should have realized that just as there was no evidentiary basis for pinning our hopes and dreams that indeed, Andrew Holness would Govern, with a vision-based policy, that was centered around moving the Country forward. As, his appointment of the really affable Audley Shaw, to the Finance portfolio, and Desmond McKenzie, to that of the Local Government Ministry, should have alerted us to the fact that his administration, was about Politics as Usual, And not the politics of transformation.
Seriously, Audley Shaw, as Minister of Finance?
Here was a man who was a serious bureaucrat, whose only business venture on record, was that of the ownership and management of a Petrol Station, which media reports suggested was badly managed and on the brink of bankruptcy, prior to his appointment to the Finance Ministry, that most have been most opportune.
Then there was Desmond McKenzie, placed in charge of the Local Government Ministry, and its billion-dollar budget, but an in-depth look at his history would have revealed a similar ‘success’ story to that of Shaw – but different in that McKenzie was a second-tier politician, elevated above and beyond his own competencies, and a living example of the “Peter Principle”, making a total mockery of the promised new day in Governance!
Any serious analysis of Andrew Holness’s 2015 Cabinet, would have shown up its glaring deficiencies and the weaknesses of those appointed to serve. As their background had no glowing successes to commend them as suitable to their new appointments. In fact, it wasn’t until Nigel Clarke was parachuted into the Parliament and appointed the Finance Minister, was there any serious consideration given to matching skills set, to job.
But, the truth be told, there’s no version of the World in which an Andrew Holness, and his skill set, was even the equal, to that of the accomplished Peter Phillips. So, if Jamaica really wanted transformational leadership, Peter Phillips was the only one with a track record of being a transformational leader. With the added bonus of not ever, having been intimately linked to, associated with, or had his ‘name called’, to any corrupt practice as a politician or political leader.
So, Jamaica truly missed the boat on this one, as it did in 1962 when it elected the populist but ignorant and visionless Bustamante, to take the reins of an independent Jamaica, instead of the visionary Norman Manley.
And as it was in the days of the intellectually challenged Bustamante, when corruption ran amok in and across the Government, resulting in at least one Government Minister earning the Moniker; “Mr. 10-Percent”, because of his rank corruption that reportedly had him demanding a 10-percent stake, in any proposed investment, before any such proposals were considered, he was so successful, he reportedly died a very wealthy man.
Then, there was the Corruption at the Ministry of Education that resulted in one Minister fleeing the Country to avoid being arrested and or prosecuted for “stealing two entire Secondary Schools”, which was on the books as having been constructed, but could never and up until today, have never been physically identified, Todays’ Holness administration, is not dissimilar, from that of the Founding Father of the party he now leads, as the corruption and ineptitude are baked in.
This brings us back to the Prime Minister’s forgotten promise of providing a Job Description for his Cabinet Ministers/Parliamentarians. Let’s begin with the Question: What Do We Want From Our Politicians? Until we ask ourselves, that question, and provide an answer, then it will continue being business as corrupt usual.
Then when we ask ourselves that question and answer it, it should become abundantly clear, that the Politician cannot provide his own job description, that job description must and should come from his employers – We, the People; the Voters, Taxpayers, The who Pay them their salaries.
1. For Starters: The Public Services Commission In Corporation with the Integrity Commission, should, and must be granted parliamentary oversight of the Parliament and Municipalities, as a Monitoring body, tasked with oversight to maintain probity, dignity, and the integrity of the body. Their role should include but not be limited to administering discipline and maintenance of standards, Outside of the realm of that of the role of the speaker. The Members of this body will be appointed by the Nation’s President, and not the Prime Minister and or Parliament. The Appointments can be made, after, or not, consulting with the Prime Minister and Leader Of The Opposition. And Leaders of Civil Society.
2. The Employees, Cannot and Must Not Set their own remuneration. This must be the Job of the Public Services Commission, in consultation with the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Finance, and the Integrity Commission.
3. Candidates offering themselves for representative office, whether at the Parochial Level or that of a Member of a Parliament; that candidate must be both numerate and literate. And Certifiably so.
4. Candidates Appointed to the Cabinet, should have attained some kind of professional mastery; demonstrated success in entrepreneurial endeavours; and or certified to the level of an MBA, from a recognized tertiary institution, in the discipline required to head the Ministry, to which they are appointed.
5. Candidates, Should be domiciled in the Constituencies, they offer themselves to represent, both at the Parochial and MP levels. Token residences are not allowed.
6. Ministers are required to reside in the residences provided and if choose to do otherwise, can only do so with the approval of the Public Services Commission, with proof of ownership and or tenancy, of the desired property.
7. All monetary Gifts, trinkets, and otherwise, above the token value of JA, $50.000.00, Must be reported to the Public Services Commission/Integrity Commission, to avoid conflict of interests and or the appearrance of impropriety by the recipient. Failure to do so will result in censorship, expulsion and or portfolio re-assignment, on the recommendation of the PSC.
8. A list of political campaign donors and donor amount must be provided to the Public Services Commission, upon election to the Parliament or Parish Council.
9. Elected politicians will not, must not, and should not interfere with the procurement processes; Should not make recommendations to the appropriate bodies for the awarding of contracts; And must not, themselves or via 3rd-parties compete in this process.
10. The elected representative can provide recommendations for a constituent, applying for a job. The Representative is not allowed to recommend anyone for employment, in a Ministry, Department, he or she heads.
11. Steps must be taken by the Public Services Commission, to have instituted and incorporated the Parliamentary Recall Bill; as well as a Bill of Impeachment. The first bill is to be occasioned after a threshold has been set, that would facilitate the recall of an elected official following a petition to recall such official has garnered the requisite predetermined amount of signatures.(Such as at least 2-thirds of the registered voters in the constituency). A Bill of Impeachment could be entered following a complaint of misconduct, corruption, and or any other form of constitutional trespass, by an elected member, subjecting that member to a trial of a constituted body to be made up of 2 members of the Government, another 2, from the Opposition and a majority of 3, drawn from the Public Services Commission.
12. Elected Officials Shall not, must not have the power to willy-nilly authorize the payout of Monies, as was reported some years ago, when the Minister of Culture reportedly authorized payment of some US$10.000.00 to an artist who was embarking on a private overseas tour; or as recently announced the payout of $100.000.000.00 by the Minister of Agriculture, supposedly to ease the drought conditions, being experienced by farmers across the Island. Such decisions must be or should be taken by the Cabinet, in consultation with the Public Services Commission and the affected Member of Parliament and Councillor.. This is intended to reduce the Pork from politics and one of the pathways to corruption.
These are starting recommendations, upon which we can and should build a working protocol for job descriptions for our Elected Officials, rather than waiting on the Prime Minister to create or outsource the task.
The above suggestions along with the establishment of a Code Of Conduct and a Code of Ethics, for our elected representatives, mandated by eminent jurists, and Civil-society advocates, would be timely, as we currently discuss amending the Constitution, to make it and its officers, more responsive to the needs of the emerging new society.
The above being a working concept, it behooves the silent majority and the vocal minority to unite in lobbying the Government to adopt the suggested changes, as we work towards the creation of a less corrupt, and more ordered structure on which to build the foundations for a more formidable, inclusive, transparent, and wholesome system of governance.