The driving test racket

In the strictest sense of the word, last week’s revelation that a “massive racket” relating to what would appear to be a thriving trade in the rigging of driving test results by corrupt functionaries inside the Guyana Police Force (GPF) is hardly news. That and the various other scams and shakedowns, reportedly creatures of the Police Traffic Department, have long been a matter of open public discourse.

Certainly, no policeman or woman with his or her ears even remotely close to the ground can pretend not to be familiar with the expression ‘buying your book,’ for example, or with the daily insidious gouging that occurs on the streets where traffic cops cynically ‘sell’ aversion of legal action against transgressors and where vehicle owners pass ‘backhanders’ in exchange for their vehicles benefitting from dubious fitness test results.

This driving test racket is particularly galling. By contriving a scam to excuse the beneficiary the responsibility of even sitting the theoretical part of the driving test in order to provide partial evidence of being able to safely operate a motor vehicle, corrupt police officials are demonstrating their preparedness to tear up the rule book (and of course to add to the hazardous traffic situation that already exists on our streets) with a   perfidiousness that is, to say the least, scandalous. It is not just a question of getting around the rules, but rather, a matter of behaving as though those rules do not exist at all. Crooked cops imposing illegitimate scripts on markers with an absolute certainty that those scripts will be given a pass mark? What on earth is going on!

What we believe prompted the GPF’s decision to go public on the matter at this time (since it is difficult to believe that this racket was not known about at the highest levels of the Force or at least strongly suspected for some time) was the sheer decibel level of the alarm raised by the invigilators/markers who would have recognized the implications for their own good names of ignoring what they had discovered.

In a sense, this puts Acting Police Commissioner Ramnarine’s statement on Friday into some sort of context. The statement speaks about initial sanctions against junior ranks in the first instance though, interestingly it far from rules out culpability at higher levels; and understandably so since it strains credulity to believe that a racket of that nature could ensue in a circumstance of blissful unawareness of those with overall responsibility. Here is an instance in which unless whatever investigation ensues delivers an outcome that goes beyond asking the public to believe that the driving test scam is down to just a handful of scheming junior ranks, then the GPF would be doing no more than further diminishing its already seriously tarnished image in the eyes of the citizenry.

So that it is now a matter of whether the GPF will proffer a superficial account of the driving test scam or whether we will be served ‘the whole nine yards,’ so to speak, allowing the chips to fall where they will. Precedent positions the betting on some kind of halfway house between the two extremes.

Here, the problem may well be that – as in other instances of police indiscretion – we may be hamstrung in our wish for the requisite corrective measures by the GPF’s prerogative of investigating itself, those investigations affording outcomes that are widely believed to varnish the truth and to protect the masterminds behind illegal acts. So that while, a not too diligent scrutiny of the evidence ought to uncover the real truth about the driving test racket and all of the players involved therein, the six million dollar question has to do with just how much that truth will be placed in the public domain.

One is often inclined to wonder whether the reluctance of the GPF to chastise itself over corruption in the Force is a function of acute institutional embarrassment and an attendant determination to protect its fragile image or whether it is a matter of understanding that the ingrained nature of corrupt practices (to say nothing about the rewards they bring to the perpetrators) is sufficiently profound as to collapse the entire House of Cards once the full extent of the crisis is made public. That is something that we may never truly know.

Certainly, it seems, in the instance of the results of the driving tests, that a somewhat stronger measure of official oversight can, at the very least, minimize the extent of the racket. Or dare we believe that the corrupt practices are not, in fact, a function of administrative loopholes, but of gaps in the system deliberately left open to allow for a regimen of informally sanctioned kickbacks and attendant rewards…and who knows just where the gravy train ends.

All of this is taking place at a time when, we are told, the administration is engaged in a search for a Police Commissioner who has what it takes to better position the police to more effectively tackle the voluminous law and order challenges facing the country. What the driving test disclosure tells us is that if he/she (whoever becomes the new Commissioner of Police) is to come even close to delivering what is required to begin to correct the situation, the task ahead will have to begin with a comprehensive cleanup of the Force’s own Augean Stables.

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