Letter of the Day | Set up watchdog over election campaigns
THE EDITOR, Sir:
The recently concluded by-elections in South East St Mary saw the utilisation of state resources to influence an outcome at a level that was outrightly vulgar. What I saw on the day itself left me in no doubt that our country's democracy is in trouble.
I know first-hand of agencies where instructions were given on the weekend before the elections to distribute chicks and fertiliser, etc., to political representatives. This has to stop! And let me state that there is no doubt that utilisation of state resources to impact outcomes during the election campaign has been practised by both political parties. And it needs to stop at least the state funds. I focus on state funds because I believe that can be monitored through legislative action.
To start, I suggest that once an election is announced, all expenditure and disbursement of benefits, contracts and products from state entities such as the Rural Agricultural Development Authority, the Tourism Enhancement Fund, parish councils, the National Works Agency, among others, should be the subject of review and approval by a tripartite oversight body headed by the auditor general, the contractor general, and the chairman of the Electoral Commission. This must be done only for the period from the announcement of the election to the day of the election.
Where these contracts have been cleverly executed in periods just prior to the announcement of an election, no payments should be given to these contractors until after the election campaign period. Let them advance the payment themselves. This corrupt practice must stop!
NO ABUSE OF PUBLIC RESOURCES
While we must find another mechanism to manage and monitor the use of private resources in undermining our democracy, no government in its incumbency must be allowed to corruptly use state resources to disburse hundreds of chickens, bags of fertiliser, disburse housing supplies and grants, execute road-repair and bush-clearing contracts, and just blatantly redirect, assign and utilise state resources of agencies managed by boards who they appointed with their political activists and operatives, to win elections.
I'm therefore urging the prime minister and the leader of the Opposition to strengthen our democracy by institutionalising an election campaign oversight body - and to do so NOW!
I look forward to support from National Integrity Action, Jamaicans for Justice and all well-thinking civil-society groupings.
There should be no more 'run wid it'!
Cromwelland, St Mary