To create a fairer world corruption and mismanagement of the public purse must be eradicated and in the absence of super heroes we are in the hands of the UN and Transparency International (TI). Oh dear. They are also involved in the fight against climate change. “Be afraid. Be very afraid.”
Guterres wants a transition to green energy and urged member states to “step up ambition and take concrete action to limit global temperature increases.” Well the September New York knees up is over and I’m yet to hear about any game changers. What we heard were excuses about the lack of resources but no solutions.
One “concrete action” that could have been put forward was utilising the sun – much of the “developing world” that they’re so concerned about receives copious amounts of free solar radiation. However, all these folk appear to be ignorant that the cost of solar panels has decreased 99% since 1980. As for lamenting about the lack of resources, what is taxpayer’s money? Demand prudence with it. If necessary, ask the private sector to provide loans; big business does not need to own solar panels in schools.
In TI’s 2011 publication, “Global Corruption Report: Climate Change” the chair, Huguette Labelle, wrote the following: For more than 15 years the work of TI has demonstrated that, left unchallenged, corruption ruins lives, destroys livelihoods and thwarts attempts at social and economic justice. The same risks apply to climate change. Better governance is the solution, however, and it will be crucial to ensure that the mitigation strategies and adaptation solutions that emerge at local, national and international levels embrace participation, accountability and integrity. With so much at stake, and with urgency of the essence, we must guarantee that climate change policy is just, effective and transparent in its design and implementation.
In 2017 and 2018 the Jamaican PM informed us that 50% of our energy would come from renewables but in 2019 he changed that to 50% from clean LNG and renewables. The other day I heard it was back to 30%. We have no details about our policies. Quoting TI, “Transparency is about shedding light on rules, plans, processes and action” so let’s look at our transparency.
Transparency is about shedding light on processes
Processes should include regular audits of how taxpayers money is used. Since schools operate during daylight hours is it prudent to keep them on the grid? What about streetlights? Would it be better value to repay 10 year loans and own solar facilities instead of paying rising electricity bills to the privately owned energy supplier forever?
Jamaica has payback periods under 4 years as reported years ago by the Grand Palladian hotel. Whilst I find school payback figures of under a year questionable, one would have expected the ministries of education, finance and energy – accompanied by the mainstream news media – to immediately descend on Ardenne High and Holy Trinity to investigate.
However, no audits have been done and all our schools are on the grid. It is safe to say that there is no transparency in regards to the economic viability of solar powered state infrastructure.
Transparency is about shedding light on rules
One rule is the human right to free education of a decent standard and the prime minister has told the world education is free in Jamaica. That is a whopper! We have a fee paying system which is dependent on wealth and the PM admits that it is underfunded.
Astronomical electricity bills have left schools destitute which negatively affects the quality of education and forces schools to charge fees. Transparency would allow the people to demand solar power and their human right to free and better education.
Transparency is about shedding light on plans
I emailed my findings to an economics professor and he wrote the following: Given your figures, it certainly seems like the facts are on your side, I can’t come up with any solid logic for keeping schools on the grid given these numbers.
The grand plan is for private sector ownership but the scheme for schools is immoral. The investors will borrow the money, repay it from the lease payments and pocket profit. So the schools should borrow the money, make repayments – not service indefinite lease payments – save money and own the facility. Simple.
The pilot scheme is to power 30 schools with savings between 40-70%. Consider Ardenne: it’s bills were $32,000 and needs $320,000 to be off the grid. If the goal was to cut costs by 70% Ardenne would pay the investor $9,600 per month (30% of the average bills) so around $115,000 per annum. If the agreement was for 40% the investors would make around $230,000. On an initial outlay of $320,000. No independent audit has been done. Jamaica is a banana republic.
At the time of writing – October 2019 – the status of the tender is quote, “Evaluation process finalised. Cabinet Submission is being finalised and to be tabled in September. Subsequent Cabinet approval of the preferred bidder and announcement of preferred bidder thereafter.” However, back in February it was reported in Forbes that an investor already had 30 solar powered schools under management. 30 schools? The pilot is 30 schools. Is this a coincidence? I cannot find any information.
Transparency is about shedding light on action
I contacted our major news channels but that was a waste of time. These stories and policies should be headline news but nothing has been reported over the airwaves.
To get an independent opinion I contacted members of a branch of UNA-UK and this was their comment: The idea has potential financial, educational and of course environmental impact. Rolled out across the tropical world and indeed elsewhere it could reduce school fees and boost access to education (especially for girls), reduce carbon footprints and set an example for non-educational sectors to emulate.
I agree. I sent my findings to the bodies that are supposed to investigate corruption and mismanagement of the public purse but they are all shams, including the Jamaican chapter of TI, the National Integrity Action (NIA). Although aware of my experiences with the media, I was advised to write a ‘pithy’ letter to the newspapers. That was it. The temerity. My concerns about Ardenne and the private investment scheme were ignored. Unbelievable. Nothing I reported was in the public interest. Corruption is ubiquitous so I was not surprised by the response.
Conclusion: the Jamaican people are in the dark.
Transparency International, Berlin
In regards to corruption and climate change, I must requote the chair: With so much at stake, and with urgency of the essence, we must guarantee that climate change policy is just, effective and transparent in its design and implementation.
Well I reckon that our policies are not “just, effective or transparent” and I agree with TI, it is wise to remain silent. In May 2018 I submitted my findings to Berlin. The email was acknowledged but over the course of a year numerous requests for feedback were ignored. I submitted a more detailed account in June 2019 and received a response from Ms Soebagjo, the chair of the board. After numerous emails and phonecalls seeking resolution I received a terse response with this conclusion:
NIA had decided that they are unable to take on this case and have informed you accordingly. In doing so, NIA has complied with our guidelines and standards.
I was not surprised, TI had sat on my findings for over a year. However, the complaint was not solely about the NIA, which was clear from a request in one email: “Whatever the outcome I hope that you will report that it is in the public interest for everyone to have this information.” That was ignored.
TI has no interest in how the people’s money is used. Here are their tenets in the fight against corruption and mismanagement of the public purse, i.e. the four core objectives on Auditing Precepts:
- the proper and effective use of public funds;
- the development of sound financial management;
- the proper execution of administrative activities;
- the communication of information to public authorities and the general public through the publication of objective reports.
So Ms Soebagjo thinks Jamaica passes all four precepts? Euston, we have a problem!
It is evident that the UN and TI are failing the people and the planet. They ignore that profit is made by underfunding education in Jamaica. Under their model to fight climate change education will continue to be underfunded – instead of indefinitely paying electricity bills they want schools to indefinitely pay leases for solar power. Underfunding education will exacerbate climate change.
The UN and TI must be made to explain themselves.