OCG, DPP: Will they work well together?

Thursday, January 31, 2013

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GOVERNOR General Sir Patrick Allen has named Mr Dirk Harrison to the position of contractor general, effective March 1, 2013, to succeed Mr Greg Christie, whose eventful and controversy-laden term ended last November.

Mr Harrison goes to the Office of Contractor General (OCG) from his position as deputy director of public prosecutions. Importantly, Miss Paula Llewellyn, the director of public prosecutions (DPP), will no longer be Mr Harrison's boss.

We welcome Mr Harrison to his new position at the OCG. We also wish to congratulate him on emerging ahead of two other candidates who were shortlisted for the position, and it is our hope that he will have a successful tenure in a job that is of paramount importance in wiping out corruption and enhancing the quality of governance in Jamaica.

But this would be mere well-wishing on our part and, in fact, we'd be missing the ball, entirely, if we did not make two critical points relating to the function of the OCG and its relationship with the DPP.

Firstly, it has been whispered loudly for years that Mr Harrison and Miss Llewellyn were not on the best of terms at the Office of the DPP. To put it mildly, those in the know maintain that there was no love lost between the two.

Their alleged dislike of each other, as far as we know, was never played out in public, apparently because these are two consummate professionals. We know that as such they ought to be able to put aside their differences in order to get the job done. But we are also mindful of past experiences when former CG Christie and Miss Llewellyn were at daggers drawn. This suggests the distinct possibility of two people who had a strained relationship going at each other, perhaps in a worse way than with Christie, when there are serious points of difference between them in carrying out their duties.

Our as yet fledgling nation cannot afford any scenario which pits the DPP against the CG, which, while still relatively new in our democracy, was established as an independent Commission in 1983 to be responsible for the monitoring and investigation of government contracts, licences and permits, to ensure that they are awarded impartially and on merit.

Secondly, while we were solid supporters of the OCG and its mission, we have been sorely disappointed by the style of the former CG, who took apparent joy in rushing to the public with allegations of wrongdoing, well before the accused had any chance of proving innocence or otherwise.

Even if this was not the intent, such practice risked tarnishing the hard-earned reputation and image of people and institutions, not in a court of law, but in the court of public opinion where it might never be regained.

It is noteworthy that the former CG made an exception for his own office when he waited diligently until investigations had been far advanced, and the matter passed to the police, before informing the nation about shenanigans involving some members of his staff.

Mr Harrison would be well minded to avoid this unkind and hurtful approach that alienated even the stoutest supporter of the concept and office.




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