Workers at the Bridgetown Port have started undergoing integrity testing.
Chairperson of the Bridgetown Port Inc. Lisa Cummins told journalists that in an effort to rid the port of any perceived corruption, various measures had been put in place.
“I am pleased to say that upon the instruction of Government, and with the leadership of the Prime Minister, we have begun in the port within the last two to three weeks, integrity testing for example, for every port staff member,” Cummins revealed.
“So they are undergoing integrity testing now. They are sometimes sitting in chairs for three hours or so and being tested with polygraphing to ensure that they don’t have any criminal activity, that there are no criminal ties. So that process has begun and we expect it to continue over the next year,” she said.
It has long been suggested that the Bridgetown Port was one of the channels though which illegal guns were entering the island. Senior police officials claimed in 2015 that customs officials were either deliberately or unwittingly allowing illegal guns into Barbados.
And in 2017, it was announced under the then Freundel Stuart administration, that Customs and Immigration officers would undertake lie detector tests as part of efforts to arrest the importation of the illegal weapons.
Speaking to reporters on Friday ahead of a tour of the West Indies Rum Distillery Ltd, Cummins said the Barbados Workers’ Union (BWU) was supporting the integrity test currently underway, adding that the port already had a system in place to vet individuals before they were hired.
“We are very thankful and appreciative for the support of the Barbados Workers’ Union who has been working with us quite ably to get this on board, and so that is one of the steps we are already taking to address the issue at the individual level of corruption,” said Cummins.
She gave the assurance that the infrastructural problems at the port were being adequately addressed and some resolution to the scanning challenges should be in place by the ending of June to early July.
She also pointed out that planning was at a very advanced stage for the separation of cargo from cruise.
Meanwhile, Minister of Maritime Affairs and the Blue Economy Kirk Humphrey said while he was aware of the “perceived” corruption at the Bridgetown Port, “I don’t want the feeling to go out there that the staff at the port is corrupt, and that everybody who is operating in the port needs to be watched.”
“That is not the case and I would not want that to be the idea. Common knowledge is often not the truth. The truth is that the port, like any other entity that is a security border point where goods come and go, will be the likely point of conversation for persons who are talking about corruption,” he said.
“I think we have to subject our employees to the necessary test, we have to strengthen our security infrastructure, but I think we have to focus on where we want to go and bring people into the process,” he said.