In Jamaica I Learnt..
Politically, it has been a week of reports of corruption, nepotism and cronyism against some high profile Members of Parliament.
- Andrew Wheatley (MP, Jamaica Labour Party (JLP))
The 2 reports by the Integrity Commission (IC) into the Petrojam scandal – that’s dogged the current government since 2018 and led to the resignation of government minister Andrew Wheatley – were published.
The IC reports highlighted high levels of corruption, conflicts of interest, nepotism, cronyism abuse of authority by certain public officials linked to Petrojam. The IC has suggested that law breaking may have been committed and recommended that further probing is carried out by another state investigative body.
The IC was very critical of Wheatley’s actions as minister. The IC also slammed the actions of Yolande Ramharrack (former Petrojam HR manager), Floyd Grindley (former Petrojam general manger), Dr. Perceval Bahado-Singh, former Chairman, Petrojam and a host of other connected individuals.
In the case of Ramharrack the IC report was highly critical of her diabolical governance and HR practices given she was so unqualified for the position from the outset.
In the aftermath of the report being made public, Prime Minister Andrew Holness came out in support of Wheatley. Both were seen (pic below) hours after the reports were published at a NHT (National Housing Trust) handover ceremony in Wheatley’s constituency of South Central St Catherine.
The Integrity Commission Special Report of Investigation conducted into Allegations concerning Donations which were made by Petrojam Ltd to Organizations and causes for the period April 2016 to March 2018
The Intergrity Commission Special Report of Investigation Conducted into Allegations of Acts of Irregularity and/or Impropriety, Conflict of Interest, Corruption, Nepotism, Cronyism and Favouritism at Petrojam Ltd
- Lisa Hanna (MP, People’s National Party (PNP))
According to reports in Friday’s Gleaner Lisa Hanna has been allegedly caught in her own cesspool of cronyism, nepotism and bad practices in her constituency of South East St Ann. Excerpts from the Gleaner:
“Lisa Hanna, a legislator and spokesperson for the Opposition People’s National Party’s (PNP) election campaign, has escaped criminal charges but has been slammed for nepotism and cronyism in the award of millions of dollars in contracts in St Ann in a ruling by the director of public prosecutions (DPP).
Richard Lake, the husband of the St Ann South Eastern member of parliament, might, however, be at risk of being charged.
The ruling has been with Integrity Commission since July 2019 but has not been made public. And DPP Paula Llewellyn, who, on Thursday, confirmed sending her opinion to the anti-corruption body, declined to comment on the matter.
“During an appearance before the OCG, Hanna explained that she selected the contractors because they “proved to be trustworthy”.
But the DPP said: “Mistake, misjudgement, negligence, or even dishonesty in the award of government contracts are not in, and of themselves, sufficient or conclusive to establish a foundation for a criminal charge.”
The DPP’s assessment, which was also sent to the police, was scathing. It argued that the OCG’s report revealed a “culture of negligence and/or unethical management in the award of contracts developed in the St Ann Municipal Corporation acting under the aegis of Ms Hanna
The DPP ruled in July 2019: “There was no allegation or evidence that Hanna “departed” from established procurement procedures and that a prosecutor could not prove “either wilful misconduct or abuse of public trust “It cannot be said that as a matter of law, the articulated justification is patently irrational,”.
Hanna has responded via social media – “It’s time to stop misleading and desperate journalism.”. Hanna rarely does straight ahead interviews.
In light of these developments how can Hanna remain a member parliament’s oversight bodies such as the Public Accounts Committee? As Hanna can not have any moral compass to question public servants over their own alleged bad practices of (legal) cronyism, nepotism and malfeasance (CNM).
With the general election looming this Hanna fallout was a test of the Phillips’ leadership given he has been lambasting the JLP government over their own alleged ties to CNM.
So it was mind-boggling to see the PNP issue a statement fully supporting Hanna rather than allowing Hanna to first face questions from the media. Phillips should have asked for the report on Hanna to be published, hold a news conference with Hanna and face the music.
Hiding behind written statements and social media postings shows a lack of courage and highlights the hypocrisy of the PNP leadership.
One of the common issues in both the Wheatley and Hanna cases is the role of constituency staff.
- Staff who worked at Wheatley’s office were given roles at Petrojam or were employed as then minister Wheatley’s assistant in government. e.g.
- [According to the IC…”Mrs Daley nee Bell previously worked in Constituency Officer of former Minister of Science, Energy & Technology Andrew Wheatley…Mrs Daley nee Bell does not have the required qualification for the job nor did she go through the normal selection process. She was given a two (2) year contract instead of a one year contract, as is normally approved by the Ministry of Finance.This contract was signed by Yolande Ramharrack only, and the signatures of the immediate supervisor, Nordia Sandford and the then General Manager, Floyd Grindley were noticeably absent.This is highly irregular”]
- According to the Gleaner…. “Meanwhile, the DPP has recommended that charges be brought against Joan McDonald, an executive in Hanna’s constituency office, for making false statements to the OCG.The OCG had found that McDonald provided false documents to investigators in breach of the law. McDonald also claimed that she was persuaded by Lake to submit false accounts to the OCG.”
We know these constituency staff members are hired for their loyalty and subservience. So carrying out certain duties on behalf of their political bosses can come with nerve wracking consequences.
Let’s hope these staff members are allowed union membership to protect themselves as they can ill-afford to hire the big lawyers (as their MP bosses can do) when the proverbial hits the fan.
9 Day Wonders = No Criminality
When caught out by their alleged acts of nepotism and cronyism, the political class and tends to fall back on the mantra that they did not do anything criminal or illegal (as per today’s PNP statement backing Hanna). Their dubious actions might not be criminal but it is clearly dishonourable.
The Americans will take note of these latest developments and when the visas start getting revoked, the reality of the political class’ actions will start to sink in.
Abraham Lawrence – released after being jailed for 20 years without trial
Elsewhere in the Jamaica, the long term incarceration of innocent poor black Jamaicans without trial is at crisis levels. Abraham Lawrence was released this week after spending 20 years in prison without trial. His charge? Causing indirect damage to a police car window during an altercation with another man. According to legal representatives Lawrence’s papers “got lost in the system” and was left to rot. Lawrence is mentally ill.
Globally I Learnt
- In New Zealand Chris Hipkins, the Minister of Education, is now also the Minister of Health – at least until the September election. Hipkins replaced David Clark, who resigned on Wednesday after a dreadful few months in the role which came to a head over the govt’s quarantine measures.
- Iceland’s President Gudni Johannesson has been re-elected with a 92% of the vote.
- According to NBC “Cuba plans to restart its tourism industry by sending visitors to five narrow islands that will offer all-inclusive vacations and keep foreigners isolated from the rest of the nation.“
- In the UK parliament former PM Theresa May blasted her successor Boris Johnson for appointing David Frost to the post of National Security Advisor given his lack of experience in the intel community. For the 2nd time in my life I agree with May. A strange decision by Boris to bring in his old pal. But as one UK radio presenter said “What do you expected when you voted for a clown for PM?”
- In Lebanon there are projections that 50% of businesses will go bust by the end of 2020 due to the pandemic.
- Vladimir Putin has stepped up his drive for Tsardom-4-life status and could stay in charge of Russia until 2036.