Contractor General Dirk Harrison Urges Citizens: Be an Advocate for Positive Change

Late last year, the non-governmental organization National Integrity Action held another membership induction ceremony at the Mona Visitors’ Lodge, University of the West Indies (UWI). It was an inspiring event; NIA is building an impressive cadre of very smart young people who are willing to step forward and advocate for transparency and accountability in governance. The keynote speaker at this ceremony was Mr. Dirk Harrison, who is our Contractor General. Here is the full text of his speech, which I will think you will find of great interest, as I did. I beg to differ somewhat with Mr. Harrison. Sometimes one has to shout a little louder! This also gives you a good overview of the core principles of the CG’s office. It’s worth a reminder. By the way, the highlights in the speech are mine..

For more information, visit the CG’s website at  The OCG is open to the public – contact details as follows: First Floor, PIOJ Building, 16 Oxford Road, P.O. Box 540, Kingston 5, Jamaica. Tel: (876) 929-0075, 929-0078, 929-6466, 929-7536  Fax No. (876) 929-7335  Email:  Twitter: @OCGJamaica Facebook: OCG Jamaica

Contractor General Dirk Harrison speaks at the last Membership Induction at UWI on November 29, 2015. (My photo)
Contractor General Dirk Harrison speaks at the last Membership Induction at UWI on November 29, 2015. (My photo)

Advocacy and Citizens Participation in Public Governance: Moving Towards a dual Role of the Office of the Contractor General (OCG), Jamaica

Board of Directors:

Professors: Trevor Munroe, Rosalea Hamilton, and Anthony Harriott. Other distinguished Board Directors, inductees and specially invited guests, good afternoon. Please permit me to express my gratitude to the National Integrity Action’s Board Chairman, Professor Trevor Munroe and other directors, who have given their consent for me to be the Guest Speaker at this very important Membership Induction Ceremony. The theme of my presentation is entitled “Advocacy and Citizens Participation in Public Governance: Moving Towards a dual Role of the Office of the Contractor General (OCG), Jamaica.”

Advocacy is defined as a political process by an individual or group which aims to influence decisions within political, economic and social systems and institutions.¹

Inductees, I implore you to be an advocate for positive change; however, it is not the person who talks the loudest (volume) or the most, it is the person who talks with substance and makes a real and not perceived difference. Do it with integrity and professionalism.

Ladies and gentlemen, in regard to the emerging dual role of the OCG that I have mentioned in my introduction, you may have already begun to contemplate what this dual role entails and it is rightly my duty to unequivocally elaborate on it. Simply put, it is a role that is characterised by advocacy, citizens’ engagement and participation, as well as the simultaneous implementation of the OCG’s Act. It is my opinion that the most effective way to combat an adverse governance challenge is to seek to prevent it by using various tools. It is out of this philosophy that this dual role is born. Regardless of the challenge(s), hopelessness should at no time be allowed to perpetuate amongst us.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, President Barack Obama once said, and I quote:

“The best way to not feel hopeless is to get up and do something. Don’t wait for good things to happen to you. If you go out and make some good things happen, you will fill the world with hope, you will fill yourself with hope.” ― Barack Obama

New members of National Integrity Action (NIA) at last November's induction ceremony. Those in the foreground came all the way from Westmoreland! (My photo)
New members of National Integrity Action (NIA) at last November’s induction ceremony. Those in the foreground came all the way from Westmoreland! (My photo)

In contemplation of this very profound and inspiring quotation, it is my unwavering belief that every individual has the innate power to propel change for the advancement of himself, his country and the world at large. It is therefore against this background, that I, and by extension my team, at the OCG, have decided to embark on a dual trajectory in regard to the role of the Office. Yes, the Office remains committed to the tenets of the OCG Act and its Mission, which is to effectively discharge the requirements of the Contractor General Act and, in so doing, to:

  • Monitor and investigate the award and implementation of contracts, licences, permits, concessions and the divestment of government assets;
  • Improve and make fair and equitable the system of awarding contracts, licences, permits, concessions and the divestment of government assets;
  • Ensure that all public sector agencies give the widest possible opportunity to qualified persons to bid for contracts and divestments or to apply for licences and permits;
  • Create a positive image of the public procurement process by promoting integrity, professionalism, transparency, efficiency and, in so doing, to thereby engender public confidence.”

These functions we shall not depart from, but as we execute these functions, we are convinced that it is impossible for the Office to truly execute its mandate without the active participation of the Jamaican citizenry, NGOs such as NIA, its inductees and the international development community. Inarguably, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, it is this guiding philosophy that has come to form the dual role that the OCG now fervently executes. The attainment of good governance is dependent on citizens’ participation in the public policy decision making process. This role is critical.

Youth participation is key: International Anti-Corruption Day activities. (Photo: OCG Jamaica/Facebook)
Youth participation is key: International Anti-Corruption Day activities last December. (Photo: OCG Jamaica/Facebook)

Consequently, the OCG’s first major attempt at advocacy, citizens’ awareness and participation, was executed at our Inaugural International Fraud and Anti-corruption Conference in March of this year (2015), a conference that attracted a wide cross-section of international and local experts – as well as, partners, which include but are not limited to: The Canadian High Commission (Jamaica); The British High Commission (Jamaica); The United States Agency for International Development (USAID); The European Union (Jamaica); The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP); The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB); The Ministry of Justice, Jamaica; The Ministry of National Security, Jamaica; The National Integrity Action (NIA); and The Major Organized Crime and Anti-Corruption Agency (MOCA).

It is my view that it is impossible to doubt that societal challenges can only be favourably addressed through effective citizens’ participation in the decision making process in a nation’s governance apparatus. Therefore, the need to develop governance structures that facilitate citizens’ participation and partnerships should at no time be overlooked. It is against this background that the OCG has taken on its dual role in a quest to build awareness, change attitude, motivate people to action, harness available social capital and resources whilst tapping into existing linkages/networks, both locally and globally.

As an Independent Anti-corruption Commission, the OCG team that I have been charged with the responsibility to lead has recognized that there should always be continued engagement and participation with the public. Citizens’ engagement and participation is crucial to our success and international partnerships are of no less importance in the execution of the Office’s core functions.

In respect to the magnitude of the corruption phenomenon (perceived and otherwise) that the Office seeks to address, please permit me to share with you a quotation from Journal USA, which states as follows, and I quote:

“Corruption is an issue too big for any one group, organization or country to tackle alone. The global prevalence of corruption is indicated by the World Bank’s conservative estimates of the annual total of bribes paid worldwide ($1 trillion) and economic losses to developing and transition countries due to corruption (between $20 billion and $40 billion a year). The explosive growth of transnational organized crime facilitated by corruption makes cooperative efforts among different stakeholders at all levels even more urgent.”²

(As we say in Jamaica, one hand can’t clap).

Inductees, in recognition of this reality, it is commendable that you have decided to join the fight against corruption and the promotion of good governance. I presume, you have joined this movement in a bid to reverse the consequences of bad governance wherever it exists, ensure the rule of law and promote the principles of transparency and accountability in the private and public sphere. This should be the ultimate role that underpins the mission of civil society.

In realization of the rapid spread of ICTs, the OCG has recognized that they are new opportunities capable of facilitating citizens’ participation. In response, the OCG has implemented numerous mechanisms and strategies to interact with the Jamaican citizenry. The various ICT tools and strategies that have been implemented by the OCG include, but are not limited to:

Query / General Feedback Form, which is an online form that allows the public to enquire about government contracts and other information that may be deemed relevant to the functions bestowed upon the OCG. The Office also utilizes other on-line forms that facilitate communication, engagement and participation between the general public. Of note, the Report Impropriety Form serves as a crucial tenet of the OCG’s information gathering strategy; it allows any citizen who may want to report an impropriety to effectively do so.

Additionally, the OCG also developed and uses a Post Contract Works Quality Complaint Form, in which members of the public can provide information based on government contracts that have been executed. In this regard, a contract may be executed contrary to agreed contractual arrangements between the government and its contractors, which may compromise the integrity of work(s) done or service rendered. As such, an informed citizen may make such observation and wish to report the matter to the OCG.

Impropriety Hotline – This is a direct telephone line set up by the OCG that allows for the reporting of acts of Impropriety by public officials who may be involved in an act of Impropriety in relation to the functions of the OCG and its core objective.

OCG’s General Electronic Mail – Through this channel, anyone who wishes to communicate with the Office can simply send an electronic mail to the OCG and whenever a mail is received through this medium a speedy response is always guaranteed by the staff members who have been assigned to manage the Office’s general e-mail.

In addition to the above mentioned tools, the OCG also utilizes social media programs such as Twitter and most recently Facebook to interact with the pubic and provide information regarding OCG events/activities.

It is the firm belief of the OCG’s management team that the mainstreaming of ICT tools within its operations and planning is crucial to strengthening the establishment of efficient, effective and transparent anti- corruption mechanisms. Not only is this our belief, the numerous experiences that we have had to date, have in fact confirmed the benefits garnered. Undoubtedly, ICTs offer unique opportunities for broadened citizens’ involvement and participation in the execution of the mandate of the OCG.

Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, it is not unusual for an individual who may want to report an impropriety or an allegation of corruption to be concerned about his/her safety or whether or not he/she would be exposed as an informant. This is quite natural. However, the OCG endeavors at all times to protect the identity of individuals who provide the Office with sensitive and confidential information and most importantly facilitates and welcomes anonymous reporting. Confidentiality and professionalism are at the core of the Office’s operations. You do not have to give your name; just provide the Office with the request information relevant for an enquiry to be made or an investigation to be launched. However, in instances were queries are made, adequate contact information must be provided in order to facilitate feedbacks.

Inductees, I implore you to build trust and credibility in your quest to serve your country.

A student makes a point at an International Anti-Corruption Day event in Montego Bay in December. (Photo: OCG Jamaica/Facebook)
A student makes a point at an International Anti-Corruption Day event in Montego Bay in December. (Photo: OCG Jamaica/Facebook)

The engagement and participation of youth is paramount to the OCG and this reality is manifested in the Office’s advocacy programs and other mechanisms that have been employed to date. As earlier mentioned, the OCG’s first major advocacy and citizens’ engagement program was its Inaugural Fraud and Anti-corruption Conference, an initiative that placed the youth at the center. The conference provided a number of avenues that facilitated the involvement of the youth.

Youth from a number of our nation’s primary schools were involved in the conference, through their participation in the OGC’s essay and poster competition, which were pre-conference activities. In relation to youth participation in the emerging dual mandate of the OCG, there are three main reasons the OCG considers youth participation prudent. These are:

  1. There is significant intrinsic value in upholding young people’s right to participate in decisions that affect them. Young people’s right to participation is articulated across several international human rights conventions, including: the International Covenant on Political and Civil Rights; and article 12 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which affords children up to the age of 18 the right of participation.
  2. There is an instrumental value in young people’s engagement in governance processes due to the value they provide in improving policy and program outcomes.
  3. Empirical research findings have also shown that there is also instrumental value in young people’s engagement due to the ongoing reward of developing active citizens who can play a key role today in improving overall development gains nationally and globally, and who can become more proactive and participatory young adults to secure future improvements.

In regard to the fight against corruption, Transparency International has given much credence to the engagement of the youth population in combating corruption. In this respect, Transparency International noted the following:

“Engaging youth is essential for success in curbing corruption; youth represent a significant portion of the population (especially in developing countries) and are generally more open to social change and political transformation, since they may have less interest in maintaining the status quo.” ³

The Chairman of Transparency International (TI) José Carlos Ugaz visited Jamaica last year. Here he speaks at a major event at the University of Technology in March. NIA is the Jamaican Chapter of TI. (My photo)
The Chairman of Transparency International (TI) José Carlos Ugaz visited Jamaica last year. Here he speaks at a major event at the University of Technology in March. NIA is the Jamaican Chapter of TI. (My photo)

In addition to the earlier mentioned core values held and practised by the OCG, the OCG is of the firm belief that a functional democracy needs an informed citizenry and empowered media, participation in policy making, a responsive state, and governing processes that are open, transparent and inclusive to all legitimate interests. Thus, there is a continued need for advocacy and the provision of pertinent information necessary for the citizenry to make informed decisions.

The State alone cannot solve society’s many problems or provide the remedies for governance deficits; this also requires citizen action. A meaningful democracy must strengthen civic voices, demonstrate responsive governance systems and promote the interest of all its citizens.

Ladies and gentlemen, the new governance paradigm is about process, politics and partnerships. Today new governance structures and demands should continue to propel government agencies to expand public consultations and implement participatory governance practices. Governance is not only for specialists and government officials. Government actors need to open up for more transparent and responsive decision-making.

Distinguished inductees, as you prepare to give of your talent, expertise and time, I implore you to always remember that accountability is a prerequisite for successful advocacy and an unquestionable integrity is the most important tool for successful leadership. It is commendable that you have decided to be a voice that advocates for change, which I suggest, should always be for the betterment of Jamaica and the world at large. Let it be your unwavering quest to rid Jamaica of the ills that have come to beset all of us. Your desire and actions to promote accountability and transparency in public and private governance will no doubt be faced with opposition, but I urge you all to be steadfast, come what may. As for me, I will continue to fervently executive the mandate of the OCG, whist ensuring that the citizens are informed in order to facilitate greater participation.

Once again, let me thank the Board of Directors for allowing me to address you, this afternoon and thank you for the attention that you have given throughout my presentation. May God continue to give you every necessary strength that is needed for you to work in the interest of Jamaica land we love, and may you each day be inspired to give your energy and time required to make Jamaica a place of choice to live and raise your families.

Thank you.

1 “Lobbying Versus Advocacy: Legal Definitions”. NP Action. Archived from the original on 2 April 2010. Retrieved 2010-03-02 

2  “Partnerships Against Corruption,” Journal USA

3  Transparency International, 2009

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