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Honourable 15%: greed is never satisfied

April 18th, 2015 | Tags: Dickson Igwe greed corruption election bribery
Dickson Igwe. Photo: VINO/File
By Dickson Igwe

A story on corruption in the British Virgin Islands states that the one effective way of defeating the corruption beast is at the ballot box.

Now this Old Boy was clearly angered a few days ago. He received feedback that a well-known writer, an Older Boy, made the statement that Your Wannabe Global Correspondent was only writing about corruption, because he was one of those “unfortunates”’ on the outside looking in. In other words his snout was not in the proverbial cookie jar.

He considers the writer and good friend, who made that statement, a ‘profound hypocrite’ on the matter. Yes, he does not mind telling his friends his mind. Diplomacy is not a gift he was blessed with. Why was his “Old Buddy” a hypocrite? Because the other guy will only criticise those who he has a “personal beef” with.

However, objective commentary requires a detached journalism. This is a rendition to truth and justice that demands that the gloves come off notwithstanding who is at the other end of the clenched fist: whether friend or foe. He will from now on read the other guy’s stories with, “a pinch of salt”. The other guy is an excellent writer, by the way.

Ok, a chat in March with a small contractor, and acquaintance, was a revelation. The man appeared to have developed a new found hatred for politicians.

The reason for the man’s overwhelming cynicism was clear. Sometime ago, the contractor described how he was awarded a contract of about $100,000. However, he had to pay a certain politician, who is held in high regard by a certain GULLIBLE cross section of the British Virgin Islands community, a fee of 15% of the contract amount. That “BRIBE” amounted to $15,000.

What angered the man was this however. The GREEDY POLITICIAN was not satisfied with the $15,000, and in the middle of the contract returned for more cash. Of course the contractor was angered, and made his feelings known. The politician immediately backtracked. The politician probably realised that the whole affair could become very embarrassing: Balsam Ghut is not the Mariott.

The Contractor went on to state that the politician had been conducting this RACKET for years, and had a bevy of contractors doing his bidding.

The Contractor, a reader of this Old Boy’s Tales, stated that on the matter of corruption and conflict of interest, the best approach for the Virgin Islands Politician, was to “click on mute”.

What bothered this Writer about the matter was the OPPORTUNITY COST. What did that $15,000 bribe cost the British Virgin Islands in terms of equipment, materials, and construction works that would be lost and lacking on the project? This was a crucial contract.

It was construction work that was very important to the country in terms of the social welfare, and the well-being of a major segment of the country’s population. To that politician, his personal greed was clearly above the national interest.

And if that politician had been taking bribes for all the years he has been in the House, think of all that the country has lost in terms of funds that could have gone into development. Honourable 15% is also a veritable hypocrite: preaching love of country and people, and all the while ripping off the taxpayer.

OK. There is a very “well connected” element in the Virgin Islands community that is very adept at lobbying the politician and getting away with unethical, even corrupt behaviour. This is a social beast that can be likened to an OCTOPUS. It spreads its tentacles anywhere there is power.

These are people who believe they possess a lot of clout. They actually believe that they can get away with murder. Notwithstanding which party is in power, they get their “bread buttered”. Their businesses depend on government support, not FREE MARKET ECONOMICS.

This is an amoral monster that uses the politician without any real character, unable to do what all real men and real women occasionally have to: SAY NO. To find out who these people are, simply follow the POLITICAL TRAIL. Follow the SOCIAL MAZE. Learn to interpret the nuances in deceptive behaviour. Listen to the street chat.

Then check which people are usually in the company of politician x or y. Look at who get contracts without tender. Check those who get honoured by the ruling political party, even though they are known to have a question mark behind their name for unethical behaviour. Find out those that get that all important call month after month to do government work that should be placed much more widely and fairly.

Certain individuals appear preordained to benefit continually and enormously from taxpayer cash, in a system of patronage that could care less about equity.

Certain politicians believe taxpayer cash is their personal treasure chest. Victory at an election is viewed as a green light for unethical behavior and spending excess. The clear anger of the general public today is well warranted, and it is the result of this political creed of greed. 

Observe which individuals get away with breaking planning laws, operating unsafe work places, and using the Immigration and Labour Departments as their private personnel departments. Observe those with friends that do their bidding in the police and customs departments. See who get away with behaviours that are a threat to public health and public safety, “year in, and year out,” without legal restraint.   

The dutiful public officer or civil servant dare not cross these people by refusing to do their bidding. The result is frequently victimisation, and worse. Many an exceptional public officer has resigned from the public service owing to the frustration of double standards and illegitimate behaviour caused by these individuals and their political patrons.

In a small community, there are certain people no politician says NO to. Or to put it another way, there are certain people only a very STALWART FIGURE with great integrity will refuse to do that dubious and frequently unethical favour.

The politician who can be BOUGHT places taxpayer cash that should have gone into developing a better community, such as improving education, social welfare, or the healthcare infrastructure, into a private pocket instead.

The word for this corrupt dynamic is NEPOTISM. Nepotism in the Caribbean may have evolved from Colonialism, but nepotism is as old as written history. It is a reason why this country remains underdeveloped despite the hundreds of millions of dollars that have passed through its doors since the late 1980s. Very few are free from the evil of nepotism in a tiny country

In a small community the dividing line between politics, private interest, family, and friends is ambiguous. There is frequent overlap.

Conflict of interest is not exact science. It is not easy to define where conflict of interest begins and where it ends. There are various conflicting themes in the conflict of interest matter. There are no absolutes. There is no clear measure as to what is acceptable and what is not. The law decides when one oversteps. But the resident, citizen, and voter ultimately have the final say at a General Election.

The law should clearly sanction those characters that cross the unacceptable line in the conflict of interest measure.

In any event, greed and patriotism are not synonyms. A greedy and corrupt politician, who uses his high office to pad his bank account, and the already filled wallets of his wealthy friends, can never advance the British Virgin Islands to DEVELOPED STATUS, no matter how colourful his talk, and “fancy” his speech.

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