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The Patriotic Vine… Corruption: Wretched minds and methods

Notice: This is not your typical article. Do not expect logical analysis and robust argumentation. However, you may sense efforts to carefully navigate the defamation trap.

Corruption has become a primary vehicle of wealth accumulation for some well-positioned citizens in Grenada. Put differently, corruption has matured in Grenada. It belongs to the trilogy of enemies of development. The others are poverty and political instability. While corruption exists in many spheres of life, it tends to be more dramatic, structured, and consequential in the marketplace called government. In fact, it is possible that a regime you know has elevated corruption to the level of ideology.

Gairy’s purchase of a piano for the residence of the Chief Minister sixty years ago was, strangely, decried as squandermania, a form of corruption. Since Independence, this scourge has multiplied and has become a lucrative industry. The practice is elaborate, pervasive, and unconscionable.

Here is a working definition of corruption: the unlawful or improper giving of favours or the transfer (includes diversion) of financial or non-financial benefits, not belonging to the giver/transferor, to another, in return for personal rewards (kickbacks) which are usually undisclosed. Conversely, corruption occurs where one receives unlawful or improper benefits, mostly financial, in return for granting favours, relief or privileges through the Office one holds.

Here, what is received from another is not lawfully due and payable to the receiver. The power-driven practice of personalising one’s portfolio or the entire government, being very wrong itself, cannot bestow ownership rights on officeholders.

Corruption is conceived in the minds of persons who are dishonest and greedy in character and who care little about the common good. A person may be enticed into corruption so that he/she may be said to be corrupt in a particular instance. In this case, corruption is not practised as a lifestyle.

However, were the practice to be prolonged that would be evidence of character dishonesty and greed. Recognise that a certain ‘reputational pull’ arises in the course of dealing whereby some people, wanting or having to do business in the public sector, confidently knock the doors of those who are known to be corrupt.

They know those who are not faithful to the Oath of Office they have taken.

Not all popular scandals amount to corruption. However, scandals concerning the financing of projects like the Garden Group, Call Centre, the St Mark Poultry Farm, the Traffic Lights, and others, may qualify as such where the evidence shows.

Unfortunately, the Integrity Commission (for conduct) and the FIU (for proceeds) are not known to have seriously confronted corruption in Grenada, and it is not difficult to figure out why that is the case. Generally, appointments are made with specific purposes in mind.

Putting flesh on the bones of corruption: Why, How and Who

(1).     The motives and beneficiaries

  • personal enrichment of people holding or having access to State power
  • enlarging a party’s coffers to benefit candidates at elections and to finance handouts thereafter
  • channeling funds to and through friends and preferred businesses, especially some small and medium size operations
  • putting property in the names of others.

(2). Projects and Programs are the main theatre of corruption.

Here are some features:

  • Ministers have real opportunities to design projects and programs (purpose and objectives, beneficiaries, sources/procurement of inputs, procedures for accessing benefits, administration and management) to be implemented by ministries, especially where local funds are to be used … there is no right of objection or appeal by anyone
  • They may influence the selection of contractors and suppliers
  • They may be involved in setting the contract sum payable
  • They may have personal relationships with contractors enabling or encouraging them to over-price contracts (padding) such that the surpluses are handed over to another.
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Additionally, a Minister may:

(i). give instructions to manipulate the system to avoid referring contracts to the Tenders’ Board

(ii). directly influence certain appointees on the Tenders’ Board to award contracts to preferred individuals or companies

(iii). give instructions to delay payment to a contractor or supplier.

(3).   Negotiations for big projects and the practice of non-disclosure

Consider under this heading big hotel and road construction projects. Consider likely negotiations as well with GPG and Grynberg, as examples. The ‘reputational pull’ factor is unmistakable, and the extent of the corruption is to be deduced from the variances between standard practices (industry norms) and the terms set out in the particular agreement.

Often, professional advice is either not sought or is ignored such that the deal is typically not in the best interest of the people. However, the kickback is banked somewhere in the world, maybe Liechtenstein?

Add to this the facilitated plundering by Offshore banks in Grenada a few years ago; a period of obscene corruption. The impacts are still being felt in Grenada.

(4).   Diplomatic Passports

Understand here that there is a certain ‘carve-out’ in effect, whereby those who are not entitled to but desire the privilege of having a Diplomatic Passport may be required to ‘pay to play’! Diplomatic Passports are never intended to be sold and are hardly ever given for free to non-nationals.

Resteiner (the fraudster of briefcase fame) got a Diplomatic Passport and was declared to be an Ambassador for Grenada merely three short weeks after making connection in Grenada. Woiiii! (Res ipsa loquitur, i.e. the thing speaks for itself.) Dozens more have received Diplomatic Passports.

The Chief Immigration Officer and the Chief of Protocol have no say in who gets a Diplomatic Passport, far less setting of the price. So, the matter is a ‘special baby’ of others!

(5).     Bag carriers

Here, a willing Public Officer may be sent on several missions to places like Morocco, the UAE and other countries to facilitate transactions that have nothing to do with the Ministry at which he/she works or any other form of government business. Typically, the costs of such missions are not borne by Government. The carrier may be enterprising enough to ‘deal himself or herself in’. One might be a clerical officer and yet be fully- loaded!

(6).   Other practices

(a)   Instructions to give certain persons/companies breaks at Customs and Inland Revenue

(b)   Unregulated sums may be attached to the grant of licences and permits

(c)   Contracts awarded to companies owned by ‘party men’ in areas such as security services, janitorial services, truckage, vehicle and equipment rentals, accommodation rentals, etc. with inflated contract sums

(d)   The price at which Crown lands are sold in particular instances

(e)   Locations where so-called Farm Roads are constructed

(f)     Use of public funds to do work on select private properties so that the beneficiaries get a value which they are not entitled to, at the expense of the taxpayers.

The above references are just some of the examples of corrupt practices or the furtherance of corrupt intent. The fact that the society has condoned rampant corruption has emboldened some actors with insatiable appetites to keep on ‘milking the cow’. “Jab doh care”!

William Joseph