Why is Integrity so important?
Freedom Speaks Column
On October 10th 1968 the Dominica Freedom Party (DFP) was formed. The party formed the government during the period 1980 to 1995 and during those years Dominica experienced solid economic and social progress. In another article we will provide details on the progress achieved during those years but all those old enough to remember will agree that Dominica performed well and was well-respected internationally during those years.
What accounted for such great success of the party in delivering social and economic progress that enriched the lives of everyone? I argue that the central factor was integrity. Let us first explain what is meant by integrity and then show how that characteristic influences development performance.
Integrity can be defined from several perspectives. We can think of it in terms of values such as honesty, impartiality, incorruptibility, transparency and accountability. For instance, we would not expect a person of integrity to lie to get a job or to deceive the electorate in an effort to retain votes. A person of integrity would be above board in reporting on the use of resources of his employer and unwillingness or refusal to accounts for public funds is a clear indication of a lack of integrity.
Integrity can also be viewed in terms of virtues such a justice, courage, self-control and wisdom. For instance, a person of integrity would not engage in or support the victimization of others based on political affiliation as this is clearly not just. Moreover, people of integrity courageously refuse to align with those who engage in injustices.
Integrity has its foundation in morality – our sense of what is right or wrong, good or bad, and this is largely influenced by our socialization which stems from our family upbringing, our education at school especially during the formative years of our life and from religious teachings. In our country we have a common sense of what is right or wrong, good or bad, and hence we all understand when someone does not have integrity. We sometime abandon our moral compass and engage in wrongdoing or condone and support those involved, but deep down inside we know better.
We can think of a person of integrity as one who has good values and virtues based on a clear sense of what is right or wrong. Moreover, the actions and judgements of people of integrity must be based on coherent principles applied consistently. Hence, those in authority should not apply one rule for one set of persons and another rule for another set unless there is a just rationale for doing so.
Does integrity influence development performance? Well if you ask those engaged in the public service, they will definitely say yes. In the public sector strategic planning consultations that I participated in across several countries, we sought to understand the ultimate cause (root cause) of any underperformance that were identified. Four or five root causes recurred across governments and across government ministries, departments or agencies. But one of the strongest causes of underperformance have been poor political governance. In essence, such poor political governance boils down to a lack of integrity among member of the political regime.
The ways in which poor governance influences national development performance varies. Take for instance the way in which public workers are recruited or promoted. A party of integrity would seek to find and employ the right people to performed desired task irrespective of familial or political affiliations. The DFP did that very well during its time in office and that contributed to the party's good performance.
If the best people are not engaged, then performance of programmes often turn out to be weaker than they could otherwise be. If nepotism is widely practiced across the public sector, and people who do not have adequate capacity are placed into jobs, then the impact multiplied across agencies will result in lower social and economic progress. Ultimately, this hurts everyone in the country even those who remain supportive of the offending political regime.
Moreover, consider how public sector construction contracts are awarded in Dominica. It is my understanding that these contracts are routinely and significantly overpriced and that the excess price over the true cost, by agreement, is split between the contractor and the instigators. Consider how this affect every Dominicans. When such activities are so prevalent as it is believed to be in Dominica, then many other necessary activities are neglected due to that lack of funds that result from such fraud.
Without such fraud, more farm roads could be built or maintained; greater efforts could be made to secure markets for farmers; and funds could have been set aside for addressing emergencies such as in the aftermath of hurricanes. Moreover, more could have been done to support families and businesses to navigate the current COVID-19 pandemic and the associated economic recession. The list can go on. The Freedom Party remains a party of integrity and stands ready to work with all to restore good governance. More on that next week.
Kent Vital Political Leader Dominica Freedom Party.