Barbados Tells The World That Our Culture Doesn’t Take Integrity Seriously
Two days ago we highlighted how the Barbados Bar Association old boys network protects lawyers who steal from clients. A lawyer who stole $150,000 from a client received only a “reprimand” from the Discipline Committee and was allowed to continue to practice. (See Barbados Bar Association Condones Theft From Clients – And Destroys The Reputation Of Honest Bajan Lawyers)
Today the world is shown another story of our society’s failure to take breach of trust incidents seriously. Former Chief Marshal Belfield Randolph McCollin, who dipped into Government’s funds “as if they were his personal piggy bank” was handed a suspended sentence for seven convictions. The Court of Appeal found that the sentence by Mr. Justice Christopher Blackman was too lenient, but there is nothing can be done because the Director of Public Prosecutions, Charles Leacock, did not appeal the sentence.
As it is, the crooked Mr. McCollin as a long time career civil servant will probably even keep his pension.
Barbados Has A Culture Of Zero Accountability
In Barbados public life we didn’t even say the words “Integrity”, “Transparency” or “Accountability” until it became fashionable in the last few years. But even though we say those words, every facet of our society declares the truth: we seldom hold people accountable for wrong doing, and further, we refuse to structure our government and business environments to make it easier to uncover wrong-doing and hold people accountable for their actions.
We don’t even have rules against the most basic conflicts of interest – for instance, there is no rule against an elected or appointed government official receiving a substantial gift from a person who is awarded government contracts from that official.
Our rules for corporate governance, financial institutions and the securities industries are laughable when compared to North America and Europe.
Our government operations are not transparent and successive administrations have refused to put laws in place that would allow the citizens to hold government officials accountable. Even our Chief Justice is a long time professional politician who was appointed to give the then BLP government control over the courts.
Every Bajan knows or senses that the corruption in government and the corporations doing business with the government reached unsustainable levels in the last few years of the previous BLP administration. There was massive fraud and mismanagement in a number of huge national projects. Consider just four: the GEMS Hotel Scandal, the ABC and flyover construction, Dodds Prison and Kensington Oval.
These projects add up to hundreds of millions of dollars – and we know that fraud occurred in each project. In the case of the the ABC/Flyover (3S) and the prison (VECO), both contractors have a proven record fraud and kickbacks in government contracts, yet our government declared that everything was ok here.
In the case of VECO and 3S, massive quantities of evidence exists in other jurisdictions that would probably undoubtedly send a few Bajan big-ups to jail.
But there was and will be no investigation by Barbados. No inquiry. No transparency to the public.
There will be no request by the current Barbados Government for the relevant evidence being held in other jurisdictions. (For prison-builder VECO there are hundreds of hours of recorded FBI tapes and hundreds of thousands of documents being held by the FBI – many of which relate directly to projects in Barbados.)
The Thompson government will not be requesting this evidence because it does not want to hold members of the last government to be personally accountable.
Probably something to do with throwing stones in glass houses. Or as a cynic would say – Honour among thieves.
We all know what that means.
The Thompson DLP Government Will Not Put Anyone In Jail
Folks, you can take what I’m about to tell you and pin it up on your wall forever… because it is true now and will remain true…
The Thompson DLP Government will not seek to hold anyone personally accountable for the well-known excesses of the last government, nor will they implement EFFECTIVE Integrity, Transparency and Integrity Legislation (ITAL) during their tenure.
The World Will Notice
This Bajan culture of corruption, of not putting anti-corruption measures in place and of not holding anyone personally responsible for wrong-doing is being noticed on the world stage. Foreign investors look at levels of corruption, but more importantly, they look at how our society and our courts deal with corruption – because that is an indication of what they can expect if all is not smooth sailing when they do business in or with Barbados.
Increasingly, the sad and dangerous truth is this: When people at certain levels are talking, the phrases “banana republic”, “you can’t trust Barbados” and “I’d be careful if I were you” are now being heard.
Nation News, April 25, 2008: Chief Marshal Job Vacant
This article was written by Marcus and Abidan, a friend from New York City.