In May 2016 the Office of the Contractor General (OCG) again after investigations into the Hanover Parish Council found blatant acts of corruption by all the councillors in the misuse of public funds. This is after the OCG found all manner of public funds misuse by the Hanover Parish Council just one year earlier. Obviously the Hanover Parish Council has pure contempt for accountability and the rule of law.
I wrote an article just last year on the despicable actions of the former Mayor Shernet Haughton (https://kentgammon.wordpress.com/2015/05/09/the-case-of-corruption-against-former-lucea-mayor-shernet-haughton) and here we are facing the same acts of blatant corruption by the same Hanover Parish Council. This time the amount misused by the Hanover Parish Council is $22,733,732.00 some 6 times more than the money misused by the former Mayor Haughton which was in the neighbourhood of $3,744,791.00.
In the said May 2016 report the OCG recommended inter alia, that parish councils and public bodies in general, refrain from awarding contracts to the relatives and affiliates of public officials and officers in an effort to avoid even the slightest perception of bias, nepotism/conflict of interest and favouritism. The OCG has made this statement on several occasions and yet the haemorrhaging of tax payers’ money continues unabated.
There are so many demands for the use of precious resources in Jamaica to treat with poverty that it makes the case of misuse of public money so especially nauseating.
All talk and no action
From as far back February 1993 the Government initiated the Local Government Reform Programme with the tabling in Parliament of Ministry Paper 8/93. That was as far as the local government reform got, all talk and no action.
And why would the government of that time take any action to reform local government? The local government apparatus in Jamaica is one that works to the country’s disadvantage. In theory the local government is to make the local communities scattered across the island to have better roads, better drainage and better lighting of the streets. In reality the local government consist of individuals who primarily shore up votes for the two main political parties. This is a raw deal for the Jamaican tax payers and to add insult to injury we have taxpayers’ money being used as free money to politically connected individuals.
It has been my considered view for years now that we should have three local government councils for the counties of Cornwall, Middlesex and Surrey.
Each of these councils would have all the powers of the mayors as the system now currently stands. The reform of local government proposes to confer the title of Mayor of the capital town/city on all Chairmen of Parish Councils.
The discretionary power of the Local Government Minister to dissolve a Local Authority shall be repealed and replaced by a process that must be initiated by a petition signed by a specified percent of voters in the locality, or a report of the Auditor General, Contractor General or other oversight organ of the state, indicating gross misconduct or persistent failure to discharge its legal responsibilities by the local authority. An order for dissolution will require a positive resolution of Parliament.
As part of the reform process legislative provision will be made to confer legal recognition on civil society and community based participatory mechanisms such as Parish Development Committees (PDCs), Development Area Committees (DACs) and Community Development Committees (CDCs), provided they satisfy specified criteria.
The above proposed reforms are not my creation and I endorse them wholeheartedly. These reform proposals are viewable on the Ministry of Local Government website.
Local government red tape breeds corruption
I have been the caretaker Member of Parliament for Clarendon South West for seven months and I have seen up close and personally the waste of taxpayers’ money in the local government apparatus. For example I have seen the drain at Kemps Hill right beside the Kemps Hill High School in a deplorable state with muck and filth risking the citizens’ lives with the dreaded zika virus. I can’t get funding for it because a whole network of red tape has to be gone through before there is a chance of it being cleaned. See http://www.loopjamaica.com/content/arscott-inaction-putting-children-risk-zikv-kent-gammon
There are several roads in a deplorable state in Sedgepond, Springfield, Jago Road, Queen Street, Gimme-Me-Bit, Rhymesbury and Farquhars Beach and the councillors operate entirely separate and apart from the central government system with no accountability whatsoever to the tax payers.
The functions of the local government officials to get local roads fixed, clean drains, spray for mosquito control, collect garbage, install street lights and so many other public necessary demands are stymied by corruption, unaccountability and bureaucratic red tape which must be stopped now.
It is high time that elected councillors should be subject to recall by the people as is proposed in one of the local government reform proposals for corruption, ineptitude and indicating gross misconduct in discharging its responsibilities.
Enough of the local government reform debate for over 2 decades now let’s get it done.