Corruption in the Public Service

Since the advent of Public Administration here in the early 1960s, the issue of corruption has occupied the minds of Grenadians, for the simple but important reason that it impacts the society in several negative ways. It costs a lot! So let us begin by attempting to clarify and comment on the concepts, commencing with the Public Service and turning thereafter to corruption.

Every country is organised for the provision of services by the Government to the citizens. All citizens constitute the public, hence those persons employed to service the needs of the citizens have come to be referred to as Public Servants or, more lately, Public Officers.

While the more popular services are recognised to be policing, justice delivery, education, healthcare and revenue collection, there are other highly important services. These fall in a category best described as regulatory management services.

Issues such as plant and disease control, labour relations, health and safety and others belong here. Generally, the common characteristic of this category is that the responsibilities are set out in statute, either as primary legislation or statutory rules and orders.

In fact, within many public services one will find elements of regulation. These regulations are not put up for their good looks.

They serve important protective purposes either by way of prohibitions or by prescribing standards of operation and maintenance. Without effective regulatory management, the public’s interest in environmental protection, pollution, water supply, plant and disease control, etc. could not be successfully promoted or protected.

The law dealing with plant and disease control does not contemplate self-regulation. So, whoever the importer may be, whether his is an international brand or of lesser status, the political authorities cannot properly determine the issue on that ground. So a dangerous precedent has been set in this Grenada! For it to stand, the law must be re-written. Otherwise it is a sorry abdication of duty where the importer is deemed to have tested and certified the goods he wishes to import so as to override the need for local application of procedures by the competent authority!

For the Prime Minister himself to employ such reasoning is nothing short of constructive mal-administration.

Corruption constitutes practices that contravene established standards of conduct and which are embarked upon for the purpose of private gain. At its core, corruption is a destabilising challenge to good governance. Corruption can be seen as an imposition on the citizen whereby he is denied his fair and just provision or expectation by persons pursuing unauthorised or prohibited actions for personal benefit, financial or otherwise.

There is a clear connection between corruption and poverty; as there is between corruption and low production. There is also a connection between corruption and social decadence, as the presence of the former acts as a degrading influence on social values and an affront to community spirit.

At another level, the practice amounts to a breach of the implied term of trust and confidence applicable to every contract of employment. Remember here that both Ministers and others are employed in the Public Service.

The State as custodian of the public interest has passed laws and made regulations to deal with corruption occurring in the public sector. Its intention in these instances is to uphold the public good.

However, reports of corrupt behaviour by Government Ministers and ordinary Public Officers reach the public domain with distressing regularity.

At these different levels of the “Public Service”, people have engaged in various enterprises of enriching themselves by abusing their positions of authority, access and custodianship.

Sometimes, the corruption is achieved by way of collecting and paying-in less than is due.

Sometimes, it is achieved by facilitating the entry into the State of defective or dangerous goods and receiving cash or other material reward for so doing. Sometimes, people are assisted in or through aspects of law-breaking for reward. Sometimes it involves the collection of resources on behalf of or to be transferred to politicians in or out of Office. Just a few examples!

Recently, the issue of corruption was aired at a Press Conference held by the Prime Minister. On that occasion a specific question was put which led the Prime Minister to say that where there are reports of corrupt practices the Police will be called into action. No one should disagree with that. But the Prime Minister, as the chief custodian of governance, must be consistent if the system as a whole is to work in the public interest.

On this premise, any Minister of Government or Permanent Secretary must be subject to Police inquiry where there are reports or strong indications of wrongful personal enrichment. One would be utterly shocked if the Prime Minister were to say that he has not received reports pointing to certain Ministers and a particular Permanent Secretary.

The public’s confidence will not be lifted where there is obviouspicking and choosing as to whose alleged conduct the Police are called upon to investigate. Where crony corruption is condoned or protected without investigation that is licence for rampant corruption!

Grenada is the loser!

William Joseph

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