Non-cash corruption

| 18/04/2013

Many of the headline-grabbing types of corruption that occur around the world seem to involve wads of cash changing hands, or bogus real estate consulting, or curious discounts on luxury condos, or at least a trip to an ATM in a gambling destination. However, some of the most dangerous corrupt acts don’t involve cash or bogus consulting or ATMs.

These non-cash corrupt acts are the ones that make it possible for corrupt politicians to increase their reach and the scope for their corrupt acts. Frequently these non-cash corrupt acts are carried out by public servants eager to gain the favour of corrupt politicians who they see as able to facilitate a fast-track for promotion or appointment.  Other times these non-cash corrupt acts are carried out by public servants simply to cover up earlier corruption or illegality.

There are laws against corrupt acts by civil servants and other public servants that apply even when cash is not involved, but sadly, there does not seem to be sufficient interest in enforcing such laws. There are also laws and internal rules against civil servants breaking or ignoring the laws they are supposed to implement, but there does not seem to be significant interest in enforcing those laws and rules either. Too frequently the highest levels in the public service treat laws and internal rules as mere words that they have no need to apply or enforce.

Scruple-challenged public servants see that public service anti-corruption systems are weak. They also see that, contrary to what should happen, corrupt politicians are able to sweep a clear path to promotion for public servants willing to turn a blind eye to illegality, or to act outside the law. It is frequently corrupt public servants that sign cheques and documents that allow public money to be used for illegal purposes, that allow corrupt politicians to do things they shouldn’t do, and that allow corrupt politicians to interfere with and further degrade the public service.

Corrupt politicians and their public service cronies spread like a cancer, degrading public services and destroying the will of honest public servants to resist. The corrupt sub-culture built by corrupt politicians within public services protects its own and prevents the promotion or even continued employment of honest, hard-working public servants. Sadly, it can take as little as a single term for corrupt politicians to bring about significant changes in key public service positions, particularly if corrupt politicians are ruthless and those that are supposed to enforce the law and internal rules and to insure the integrity of the public service are weak, indifferent, or worse.

When those that are supposed to insure the integrity of a public service are weak, indifferent or worse, public servants see honest hard-working public servants who refuse to go along with corruption swept aside, demoted or sent on ‘garden leave’. Sadly, what public servants rarely if ever see is any person, whether in the form of a governor, or an anti-corruption commission, or any other authority, causing the investigation and prosecution of corrupt public servants involved in facilitating, aiding, abetting or covering up the illegal acts of political bosses.

Non-cash corruption leads to the understandable perception that disregard for the law is simply business as usual within a civil service and broader public service. All too frequently, it seems that the civil service and the broader public service do whatever they want, ignoring the law with apparent impunity, secure in their perception that the highest levels in the relevant civil service simply do not require compliance with the law.  That must change.

The perception that significant parts of the public services operate outside the law, or are simply too disinterested, unmotivated or incestuously involved to sanction their own, no matter how many laws are broken, is understandable. Proper monitoring and investigation of unlawful behaviour within the public service is frequently not apparent. Thankfully the auditor general and his team look for specific elements of fraud and theft. Without that, it seems that there would be no relevant monitoring or investigation at all.  

The complaints commissioner is currently prohibited from accepting complaints of unlawful behaviour within the public service from honest public servants. The police have their hands full dealing with criminals outside the public service, and in any event they simply are not trained to enforce those aspects of either the Public Finance and Management Law or the Public Service Management Law that are the staging areas for corrupt politicians and corrupt public servants.

There is the clear need for a small forensic investigation unit appointed by the governor that is comprised of people from outside the public service knowledgeable in the law applicable to the public service. That unit must be readily accessible to the public and honest public service employees, and must be completely independent of EVERY level of the civil service hierarchy. That unit must be mandated to receive complaints and to investigate all types of illegal acts within every part of the public service, and to share their findings with and to make reasoned recommendations to the governor (at least in the case of corruption or incompetence at the highest levels in the public service), the auditor general, the Anti-Corruption Commission and the director of public prosecutions. Given the millions now lost annually, the unit would be entirely self-financing simply based on the elimination of corrupt wastage of public funds.

There is also a need for very strong whistle-blower protection to protect honest public servants and other members of the public. At present there is no virtually protection from either corrupt politicians or indifferent or corrupt senior public servants. Weak or non-existent whistle-blower legislation is one of the reasons that corruption and indifference to the law now prospers. Some consideration of such legislation is apparently underway under the auspices of the Office of the Complaints Commissioner.  That should be supported.

As a Caymanian, it is my fervent hope that strong whistle-blower protection and zero-tolerance for civil servants and other public servants ignoring or breaking the law are both implemented soon. Good governance requires such change, even if it is resisted by the highest levels in the public service.

Are you listening, governor?

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Comments (25)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Thank you 18.24 for shedding light on the problem with the immigration board member.  Now if only everyone else would also begin to shed some light on the many incidences of non-cash corruption we could begin to get better idea of the scale of the problem and demand that our Deputy Governor, as head of the Civil Service, do something about it.  If he doesn't we should bring this to the attention of our Governor who has the authority to replace him with a new Deputy Governor who would do something about it.  We have the power to demand the high level of ethical behavior from our civil service.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Excellent post! Those who facilitate corruption are equally guilty of corruption. Hopefully we now have a Deputy Governor who will actually act deliberately in cases of even whispered facilitation of corruption within the higher ranks of the Civil Service. And we wonder why there are situations like the “Gasboy” fiasco – the attitude trickles down to the entire CS and therefore everyone does his/her thing and no one in authority does anything about it. Could the reason that nothing is done and the records are closed (as an earlier post stated, in his case) be that those in the higher ranks are afraid that some of their deeds may be exposed If they open the floodgates?

    • Anonymous says:

      There is the issue of the immigration board member who is being ivestigated for corrupt activites – don't think any body is doing anything about having that person removed.

      The deputy governor needs to step in and deal with that little matter before he completely has my respect.

      • Anonymous says:

        Years ago we sent important application documents to Immigration via Registered Mail, you know, to ensure they got there.  Many months went by and we were left to enquire as to the status of our application, and to our horror were advised that they were never recieved!  The Post Master General was called in and went down to GT to discover a mountain of unclaimed registered mail for Immigration that they simply never bothered to collect.

    • Anonymous says:

      No offence to the Deputy Governor, but I have not witnessed any decrease in the abuses that go on and I have not seen even one single report of him doing anything to end the abuses that go on and I have not heard of even one instance in which anything has been done about employees in the civil service who ignore our laws.  I have read some of his pronouncements but have seen no indication that he is willing to 'walk the walk' rather than just 'talk the talk'.

      • Anonymous says:

        13.33- why would you say "no offense to the Deputy Governor"? Its his job and I for one see no sign of action, so he should be offended and upended until he does something or is dismissed. No one should apologies for expecting people todo thier jobs properly.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Rex lex or lex rex? (is the king law or is the law king?)

    It is well settled that the law is king and Cayman is a jurisdiction governed by the rule of law.  How was it possible that our politicians are able to XXXXX in Las Vegas? This can only be achieved with the complicit actions of our senior civil service who viewed this behavior as acceptable and therefore authorized the relevant payment from our government bank accounts.  Similarly, how is it possible that senior positions in the civil service are filled with political appointees? This too can only be achieved with the complicit and collusive actions of our senior civil servants who are willing to break/bend the rules to facilitate what is deemed to be politically expedient.

    Just as our ex-Premier is being dragged through the courts these civil servants should also be dragged through the courts, or held to account in an equally public manner, XXXX.  Just look at the reports from our Auditor General and our FOI Commissioner.  Too often we see the identification of egregious and unlawful actions on the part of our civil service without any sanctions of the civil servants responsible.  This must stop!! 

    We claim to be a 1st world jurisdiction and we must demand 1st world standards of our civil servants. It is only when those at the top who are complicit are held to account by being removed from their positions so that the message will get through that we will not tolerate our senior civil servants breaking any law will this cancer of non-cash corruption stop. 

    Thank goodness for the many honest and hardworking civil servants who do bring evidence of corruption to the attention of our Auditor General.  We all thank you!  You are doing our country a great public service.  Now if only the Auditor General could bring matters directly to the court on his own recognizance, and without having to go through the DPP which has limited resources, will we be able to make any significant move towards the honest and ethical civil service we alldeserve.

  4. Anonymous says:

     

    Cayman we DESERVE BETTER!! Not least of which is the right not to be harmed by the deliberate unlawful action of a public servant. We MUST HOLD our public service to account.  We now have a Constitution with a Bill of Rights which provides us with access through the Courts to an important mechanism for accountability of public officials. We can make 77A Constitutional filings with the court citing breaches of S.26 of the Bill of Rights (Enforcement of Rights and Freedoms). It is OUR DUTY to use this mechanism and to make every effort to deter egregious abuses of public power and thereby help ensure that public officials are held accountable for the worst abuses of their powers.

    We all have a right not to be harmed by the deliberate unlawful actions of a public officer. Indeed, we should not lose sight of the fact that the executive or administrative power under which our public official act ‘may only be utilised for the public good’. (Lord Steyn in Three Rivers)

    It should be “unthinkable that our law should not require the highest standard of a public official in the execution of his office” – Norse LJ (Jones v Swansea City Council)

    If public officers will infringe men’s rights they ought to pay greater damages than other men to deter and hinder other officers from the like offences” – Holt CJ (Ashby v White)

    There is an obvious public service in bringing public servants guilty of outrageous conduct to book. Those who act in such a way should not be free to do so with impunity.” – Lord Bingham (Watkins v Home Office)

    Come on Cayman!!  Stand up and fight and take our beloved country back from the grip of this corruption.

    • Anonymous says:

      23.54 – Cayman "deserves better"?? Cayman deserved what it voted for and for what it got. So once Cayman finally realises that its leaders must be chosen with great care, then maybe Cayman will deserve better.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Excellent post!  This problem has spread like a cancer and now most of the Chief Officers are effectively political appointees in that the politicans can 'wuk wit' them.  As a result these individuals only serve the politician's and not the public's interest. Needlest to say the politician's interest is not alligned with that of the public but it is never questioned. In essence the politician eats cake whilethe rest of us starves. Ultimately we the public are getting the crumbs from our table while the Chief Officer sign over the keys to our larders so that the politicians can raid it. Worst of all these chief officers just hand out congratulations to each other so that we are left to think that they are really serving our public interest. They clearly think we are all 3rd graders who would easily for this.

    Governor you know this is true. Please please help us.  We desperately need this investigative committee.

     

  6. Anonymous says:

    Having watched the public service in action for decades it would not be hard to believe that obtaining promotion in the public service has more to do with the inner workings of a cabal than what is set out in the law. There is no hope for progress in our country if the key to a successful public service career has more to do with solidarity with the higher ups no matter how corrupt than anything even vaguely related to competence or integrity.

  7. Anonymous says:

    I agree with Aristophanes that bringing an end to the law-ignoring corrupt sub-culture within the public service will require people that understand both the Anti-Corruption Law and the finer points of how the Public Service Management Law and the Public Finance and Management Law should work. I believe that the law is on the side of honest public servants even if some big shots in the public service think the law doesn't apply to them and can't touch them. Honest public servants need access to a fair independent investigation process and to fair decision makers like in the courts.

  8. Anonymous says:

    The Anti-Corruption Law has specific provisions that in theory should apply to most of what Aristophanes calls 'non-cash' corruption. Theory and reality are not the same. From my experience some at the highest levels in the public service seem to think that they and their cronies are above the law and act accordingly. They refuse to either follow the law or enforce it. Honest public servants who point out illegal activity to their superiors are likely to have their complaints dismissed and to then face punishment and career ruin for not keepting quiet.

    At present senior public servants who abuse their positions and their honest hardworking subordinates are essentially untouchable. The hierarchy supports the person farther up the person higher up no matter how egregious the conduct. So far none of this type of corruption has made it through the court process. Hopefully that will change as representatives of the rank and file honest public servants begin to understand how to use the Bill of Rights.

     

  9. Outraged says:

    I appreciate the posting of this Viewpoint. However, you have no idea how bad this problem really is unless you have been a victim of this corruption. 

    I have been a victim of this problem, exhausting all of the proper procedures of complaints to the Ministry, the Information Commissioner, contacting numerous MLA's of different parties, the DPP, the ACC, and the OCC.

    They all have complete knowledge of the violations of law, have actually acknowledged the laws have been violated, and have turned a blind eye and actually sealed the information to protect the cover-up. 

    I have been deemed the "whistle-blower." Yet, I have no voice, nobody knows my story (except those covering it up), I have no protection, no paths to justice or relief, and I don't have the deep pockets that the violators have.

    Suggestions to prevent this from continuing are helpful, but where do I get help NOW? I understand that nobody cares about my personal story, but you'll care when it happens to you.  The public should know my story, especially during this election season.

    Mr. Duckpond, would you be willing to share my story as an example of your Viewpoint?

     

  10. Anonymous says:

    Excellent viewpoint and all suggestions therein long, long overdue!

    No chance of the needed change with UDP or UDP lite in power.

  11. cow itch says:

    is there a duck pond called aristoffanese? me jus love ducks  (:))>

  12. Anonymous says:

    This is a really good post! I too hope that the Governor takes this to heart and implements the appropriate processes to create a trustworthy and professional service as suggested here. For too long , a significant number of senior public officials and politicians have either turned a blind eye to wholly inappropriate/ corrupt behaviours or undertook same while they waged a war of intimidation to keep their subordinates quiet.
    It’s about time we call for integrity not just from politicians but from public officers as well.
    The jobs for life mentality has created a wholly politicized environment where, one is perceived to be supportive of the incoming government or one is not. In the latter case, as we have seen happen with this UDP government, the so identified person(s) is/ are seen as an entity to be silenced.
    I will watch for any reaction to this as we must change the culture on both platforms – that of the political directorate and the senior public officials if real change is to be a reality.
    Our future cannot be predicated on anyone’s personal agenda for notoriety of any sort. That has gone on far too long.

  13. Anonymous says:

    All these things you say, and more, are true!

    The real problem as I see it is that this sort of corruption has been a part of life for so long that the populace do not see it as corruption. Actually, the cash based corruption has been accepted so long that many see it as normal, the attitude I have seen many times is, well ok X may have taken a fee for, say land rezoning, but why else would he be a politician. Maybe, for example, a politician might arrange for a bank to get a licence to take money, if that same bank then failed for, say giving loans to cronies, even if the politician was involved in its management, that wouldnt be seen as corruption, rather it would be par for the course.

    If you have that attitude to start with, it is difficult to see how to eradicate it!

    • Vertical Pig says:

      You're right – the deeper problem is cultural attitudes: it usually is.

       

       Apart from some stuff  the more vengefulbible bashers are hot for obeying the law is an elastic concept in Cayman. Chances are you will get away with stuff … repeatedly.

       

      And, after all, if you don't help yourself to public money someone else will.

       

       

  14. Dreadlock Holmes says:

    You make some good suggestions XXXXX. It seems there is no comprehension on where the money arrived from. It's just there. What exacerbates the problem even more, especially on Cayman, is the total lack of accounts and accountability. IE: If no one has any idea how much is in an account or where it is being spent how can individual transactions be tracked or exposed? XXXX So, the problem begins when our money, in the form of fees and dues, etc. enters the system without any idea of what it's going to be used for.

    To get back to the topic: why is this so? I have mentioned before in posts the basic need for people (read voters here) to have an accounting of where their money has been used. And for what. This isn't rocket science forit is standard procedure in business whenever stockholder money is invested and used. The most understandable time to do this is prior to an election when the "books" should be public knowledge. In other words, "here's where we started four years ago.. these are the numbers. And here's where we stand now." Without that needed information how on earth are we to believe any of the tripe spouted during an election. Are we not the stockholders. And are members of government to all intents not our Board of Directors? With the premier being CEO?

    Promises are often made by the parties running, and those promises usually revolve around where money will be spent. If they are party to, as either the incumbents or opposition, on how much money is available in order to make those promises.. then where on earth have they got their information from? Why aren't we, as the source of this, allowed to know as well? The figures must be available from somewhere instead, we are asked to vote on blind faith. Leaving the door open for even more corruption and mismanagement as part of the process you're speaking of. Because in their minds….without evidence….there is no crime.

    And without books this can't be proven. "We didn't do it. They did." We've heard this before, and we're hearing it again. This must stop. And we must make demands for a full accounting of our funds…and where they went..before we waste our votes again… on bullshit and rhetoric and empty promises. Let's see the numbers! We demand it! And we have a right to know.

  15. Anonymous says:

    All good points. But this is what the Anti Corruption Law and Commission (ACC) are set up to handle. The problem is that the ACC is not truly independent either legally or operationally. And it has no resources to speak off, and is pretty well entirely reliant on the RCIPS for its operations. We should all be pushing the candidates (and the Governor) very hard for real and meaningful commitments to change this and to make the ACC  something we can all be proud of.

     

    Tim Ridley 

  16. Anonymous says:

    I hope somebody with the power to do something reads this. I don't think that the polticians will touch this and I am very disappointed that none of the election candidates in my district are speaking out against corruption.

  17. Anonymous says:

    Another great Viewpoint from Aristophanes. Given the lack of action following the free gas episode I wonder how many more years it will take to do something?

    • Anonymous says:

      I was passing there like 2 weekends ago and saw a man getting gas in his personal vehicle. I couldn't believe that the foolishness was still ongoing! They need to shut that damn place down, and revamp management. Thieves.

    • Anonymous says:

      I make no comment on the likley time frame in which CIG will take action, but I would point out that the heat death of the universe is expected to occur within 10,000 billion years and may be a more pressing concern.