Friday, August 28, 2009

Using the polygraph test- In a kleptocracy of lies

Using the polygraph test- In a kleptocracy of lies
-And some Kudos to the Kaieteur
Stabroek News, August 28, 2009 @ 5:05 am In Daily, Features
Frankly Speaking… By A.A. Fenty

This should be a relatively short one for your reading pleasure (?), no interest, today. My simple, basic views on the use of the polygraph – lie detector – testing with respect to the nation’s public employees, especially.

My own view is that public servants should not be routinely subjected to these integrity tests. New, or young recruits should not be asked to undergo this testing as part of entrance requirements or such like. Why? Because, to me, it reeks of an aura of suspicion of an innocent who has not even begun to do right or wrong on the job. It’s as if the government-employer is trusting no one, even the “untested”.

Mind you, perhaps this government wants to be unique, doing a unique thing. That is making this scientific but mechanical integrity measure a part of its recruitment/appointment requirements. I suppose then that the lie-detector will become ubiquitous, in terms of hiring and firing, if proposals hinted at, are to become the implemented norm.

I have read Minister Rohee’s position on the issue. I am even persuaded by much of his argument regarding the usefulness of trying to measure an employee’s honesty, character and integrity as these have a bearing on government’s “probity and the tenets of good governance”. And I’m sure that the (Stabroek News) reading public is appreciative of the Minister’s simplified exposition on polygraph and what the testing seeks to do.

However, in this corrupt-friendly society, the big serious crooks are not the nation’s employed poor – the young Public Servant. Yes, certain categories do specialize in looking for criminal opportunities, but I don’t feel that all should be painted with one stroke of one brush. Rather, insist that certain key types be considered for the scrutiny of your detector. Like contractors, bidders, on-site engineers and overseers, all those who are involved in multi-million dollar state projects. Oh! But who will dare to suggest that to those prominent professionals of alleged “unimpeachable integrity”?

After the polygraph

A few columns ago, I shared the view that I did not and still do not – feel that our poor, beautiful, blighted country has not become a full-fledged Kleptocracy. And I dare not suggest that our governmental managers are kleptocrats, or kleptocratic. All I’ll risk is saying that a kleptocracy is “A Government or state in which those in power exploit national resources and steal”. And that perception in Guyana is often stronger than reality. And that there are times that kleptocrats use surrogates and subordinates, consultants and contractors to execute their exploitation.

More telling, of course, is when perception is reinforced by evidence! But I digress before concluding the polygraph issue.

Where thievery, corruption and a new immorality that “blesses” wrongdoing as acceptable thrives, let us imagine a new public servant being subject to the then compulsory lie-detector/integrity testing. She passes with flying colours of honesty and innocence.
She is soon promoted to be responsible for sensitive records and millions of dollars. Her single-parent instinct kicks in when her two year old falls seriously ill

She is old fashioned honest and as “Christian” as she was conditioned to be. But she compromises all that enough to want to “borrow” the State funds she supervises. She is later accused. So? A previously polygraph-tested successful employee is now a prime suspect. Another polygraph test!? Besides internal, perhaps police, investigations?

The moral of that story is, or should be: that the polygraph/lie-detector test can pass you fit for a period; and that other character–investigative criteria have to be employed. Suspected wrong-doing should see the lie-detector test as merely one instrument to identify suspects or persons–of-interest.
And remember the new gospel: in a real kleptocracy, lies are not deemed untruth! (Figure that out.)
My kudos for the Kaieteur

The “my” in this sub-head above emphasizes, of course, that these views are quite personal – possibly not shared. I now read the Kaieteur News even though I have five good reasons for not being a genuine, regular admirer of the publication. I am aware though, that Kaieteur’s sales and distribution department cares not whether I admire or “like” the ‘paper, so long as I buy it! (Incidentally Kaieteur, you need at least, five really good proof-readers.)

This is to congratulate you for your now sustained scrutiny, in words and pictures, of the finished national products and projects being funded by both the Guyanese taxpayers – both PPP and PNC/AFC taxpayers – and foreign donors. It’s been an old on–the–street perception, perhaps reality: millions are being misappropriated by hand-picked phony contractors.
I agree that the Tender Board people should engage the Kaieteur as to how these tenders are awarded. But it’s what happens after the award. Keep at it Kaieteur! Even if you get some wrong, you may apologise boldly, but Guyanese – and the crooks – will know you are scrutinizing on our behalf. Other private media should join the Kaieteur campaign.

*1) And Dr. Ashni Singh was one Minister I held in high regard.

*2) Kaieteur or Mr. Sharma or Somebody is it not another scandal with our money where the new Ministry building is under construction at High and Princes Streets, where the old GBC used to be?

*3) Imagine where we are – and how our young should react – when our officials welcome the “re-opening” of illegal, “backtrack” crossings!
*4) Great high-level debates from the lawyers in the letter pages.
‘Til Next Week!


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