“…There is a temptation to let the lying dogs sleep…”
—Sikka, Premm. “HMRC is in thrall to big business. It can no longer do its job.” The Guardian. 8 September 2016
“The Upholder is worse than the Thief”
—from the defunct Trinidad & Tobago value system, decades ago…
The reported statements of the PM and Minister Sinanan on this cost reduction of about $300M achieved for the Curepe Interchange project and the alleged role of corrupt engineers in that process are ones I welcome. Any savings of scarce Public Money are to be welcomed, whatever the political administration. That said, those recent statements are necessary but not sufficient.
These points are here to set the table –
- Readers need to be entirely clear that Grand Corruption is the kind of thievery which runs into the millions of dollars. Grand Corruption literally cannot take place without the active participation and approval of professionals in positions of authority and responsibility. Educated, well-paid people have to knowingly sign a six for a nine if large-scale corruption is to proceed. There is no other way.
- In every profession, there are practitioners who are ready, willing and able to abandon good standards and prove that they are bright for spite. Sometimes it seems to me as if crooked work is all certain professionals do. It is important to note here that in my experience it is only a few practitioners in each profession who indulge in these crimes.
- What is more, all of us in the various professions know who are the charlatans in our professions. The practitioners who do these crimes benefit greatly – yes, crime pays…especially, white-collar crime…- and contribute greatly to the decline in ethical and professional standards. That is my observation.
- The final point in this series of observations is that the nonsense produced by these charlatans literally cannot withstand serious scrutiny. Audited accounts; bogus medical reports; corrupt engineers reports; inflated property valuations; rickety title searches…all of these are almost immediately detectable by a solidly-qualified and experienced professional.
So, if these economic crimes are deeply detrimental and easily detectable, but only carried out by a few practitioners whom we can readily identify – what is the problem? Why are these frauds still within our ranks? We need to take clear steps to maintain standards in all our professions. We cannot let lying dogs sleep, that is to our collective peril.
SIDEBAR: Rustication of Valuation Surveyors
On 25th January 2018, I wrote in this space on the emerging controversy in relation to the land acquisitions for this Curepe Interchange. Minister Rohan Sinanan made widely-reported and strong statements alleging corruption from some of my colleagues in the Valuation Surveying profession. I made the point, in relation to my own profession –
“…The said Minister Sinanan made serious allegations against certain professionals in the Valuation Division and the Institute of Surveyors of T&T called for the Ministry to make formal reports against those persons. I support those calls for action as those persons need to be formally reported to the police, their professional bodies (both local and international) and their insurers…”
If NIDCO is satisfied that the scope of works is the same between those two approvals for the job with the same name, it is simply not good enough to criticise ‘corrupt engineers‘ without taking the necessary steps to rusticate them.
If the offending professionals and/or their firms have been identified, the PM & the Minister need to ensure that these steps are taken –
- Formal reports are made to the respective Professional Bodies and the Board of Engineering – if the offenders are qualified via international professional bodies, notifications need to be made to those bodies as well;
- Those reports need to be copied to the companies which have issued Professional Indemnity Insurance for those professionals and firms;
- Formal reports need to be made to the Anti Corruption Bureau of the Police Service with a view to formal prosecutions;
The intent ought to be to ensure that those offending professionals do not continue to benefit from State contracts. This is a matter of political leadership and quite frankly, national survival.
Professionals’ reputations have declined seriously in my lifetime. If we fail or refuse to take action to halt further decline, we are courting tragedy. In that scenario, the widespread public impression is established that professional and scientific opinions can be equated with personal opinions. What is more, if the public comes to accept that those professional and scientific opinions can be simply paid for by various ‘sides’ in matters of public importance, we start to inflict deep injuries, possibly irreparable, on the very notion of truth or consensus. We are already at dangerous flashpoints on environmental, economic and political issues, with ‘opinion’ being bandied as a cure-all for wanton irresponsibility in the highest offices, here and abroad.
The Upholder is worse than the Thief. I leave it there.
ADDENDUM: Transport priorities
This Curepe interchange is now estimated to cost $221M and according to the reported remarks of the PM at the sod-turning on Wednesday 20th February 2019, there are further interchanges planned to ease traffic along the East-West Corridor. The PM disclosed that six more interchanges are planned, including at Macoya, Arima, Piarco and Wallerfield.
If these ambitious plans are accomplished, we would have invested a huge sum in our highway network, likely in excess of $1.0 Billion. I am raising the question, in terms of transportation planning and environmental impact, whether there are better ways to spend our limited Public Money allocated to transportation. It could well be that those sums of Public Money could be better invested on mass-transportation solutions such as increasing the PTSC fleet.