Industrial relations expert DIANA MAHABIR-WYATT joins Newsday as a columnist and will address the dynamics of the modern workplace in the private and public sectors. Her opening topic is on systemic fraud and the Trump effect on governance.
We are now officially in what media people around the cynical world refer to as “the silly season”: the months leading up to an election.
It started in the US, with the impeachment drama being played out in President Trump’s ongoing life saga, which has become a role model for politicians in developing (or receding) countries. As you have no doubt noticed.
One can’t help wondering what on earth Trump clones will turn to, to feed their desperate addiction for publicity after his spell as president comes to an end, as, of course, all such terms must.
Here, in our own silly season, we are mirroring in the press and social media, the same charges of fraud, corruption, neglect, discrimination and the usual trite allegations about racism, sexism, ageism and any other “ism/schism" that the politically inclined dig up as accusations against anyone they see as opponents. The epitome of silly is a press report of the Oropouche East MP holding up pictures of the National Security Minister and his stepdaughter as proof that PNM ministers had relationships with criminals. Give us a chance!
When charges of fraud and corruption become just a way of life, the culture shifts. As a friend quoted to me last week, “When everyone is corrupt, corruption ceases to be an issue.”
It becomes simply a part of the accepted culture, and people who demand payment for work not done or services not delivered see themselves as “clever” or even “entitled”.
This is accepting the morality and ethics of Trump, who boasted about his cleverness in not paying income tax on his vast earnings. And then got elected to office by followers who accepted the fraud as “clever,” or, worse, irrelevant.
In the workplace there are people who do not see their actions as fraudulent but as an accepted way of doing business. People who condemn anyone who was promoted above them or can be identified as the “one per cent”.
These include one per cent of trade union leaders, one per cent of lawyers , one per cent of URP workers, one per cent of doctors, one per cent of academics, one per cent of entrepreneurs, and certainly one per cent of politicians – indeed of any group that has gained position, power or income above their own. If they gain influence or positions of authority of any kind, as the old saying goes about monkeys, “The higher him climb, the more him expose.”
It does not require a degree in quantum physics to know that to claim payment for a day of sick leave when you are not sick identifies you as a fraudster.
It is a good way to gauge people’s ethical values. Do they distinguish wrong from right? Or do they think that because “everybody else does it” it is morally and ethically acceptable?
Some commit fraud when, applying for a job, they submit a CV claiming qualifications and experience they do not have. Instead of finding what qualifications are needed and working to get them, they spend money on Carnival costumes instead of school fees.
A year’s tertiary education tuition for an adult is more or less equivalent to one Carnival costume these days. It depends on your priorities, I guess.
Some Trumpeters, unwilling to do the mental effort to earn qualifications, “buy” qualifications from degree mills over the internet, assuming that busy local recruiters will never check.
Alternatively, if they are in the same organisation and can’t get away with that, they loudly claim entitlement for promotion on the basis of how long they have been doing the same job, over and over, as has happened in the past in the public service or the police service, with performance results we have all experienced.
Buying degrees and claiming them as real qualifications is fraud. When found out, people can get fired summarily for that. And they do.
Smooth talk, political connections and being well-dressed will sometimes succeed. Subsequent poor performance will be covered over by more fraud – casting suspicion on other workers, claiming instructions were never received, bullying, etc. A true fraudster can be very persuasive and ruin the business that hired him or her.
It goes beyond education and social class. Section 77 of the Industrial Relations Act, for example, refers to “fraudulent medical certificates” and is about fraud committed by doctors who issue medical certificates to people who are not ill. I am told the current price is $50 for each day’s certification. One such certificate is issued by the doctor’s daughter, whose medical qualifications are only that she can read and write.
Professionals who commit that kind of fraud usually also demand to be paid in cash so as to avoid paying income tax, another example set by the Trumpeters.
Employers who deduct NIS contributions from employees as the law requires, but do not submit these contributions to the NIB, keeping the money for themselves, also commit fraud, often overlooked by negligent compliance officers from the NIB.
I remember one such who piously led a daily prayer session every morning with his employees, but when those employees went to collect their NIS pensions on retirement, they found there were no records of contributions ever paid in by him.
People who commit fraud degrade themselves as well as TT. So “all ah we tief” earns all ah we Trinis the reputation of being corrupt among our Caribbean neighbours, as well as some investment houses internationally, which will not accept investments from TT because this country has one of the highest reputations for money-laundering in the world.
Diana Mahabir-Wyatt is a human resource management and industrial relations consultant. She is also a human rights advocate and has served as an independent senator.