False Promises

First Published: 2003-05-09

 

Promising accountability and stopping waste in government is the mantra of all political parties while in opposition. However, once enthroned in government excuses are found for the waste, and the practice continues.

Executives of Enron have been held up to ridicule and investigations undertaken into their allegedly unethical practices. The deeds of the Enron officials forced sweeping changes to the rules of accounting and the requirements of accountants and their auditors.

The most recent example of government waste and lack of accountability here at home is the Junkanoo scandal. However, history is replete with government waste on a mammoth scale. Examples include Commissions of Enquiry where no criminal charges were laid, Bahamasair losing millions each year, a hapless Hotel Corporation, and Bahamas Agricultural & Industrial Corporation and Bahamas Development Loans that go unpaid and the list goes on. Some call this Politics 101, but the country’s future is too fragile to continue with such disdain for integrity and accountability.

This begs the question; why is a country’s political leadership not held to the same standard when it comes to the unethical waste of taxpayer money?

So what can be done?

First: the Public Accounts Committee must do its job. The Official Opposition controls this committee and they have the opportunity to review documentation and call for persons in any matter relating to government expenditure.

Second: a comprehensive review of government programmes and how they overlap is imperative. Far too often, several government ministries or departments do the same thing. These should be combined to realise economies of scale and efficiency.

Third: focus on performance and accountability requirements. By making these priorities and attaching consequences to good and bad performances where rewards (financial and otherwise) are given for good performance and fixing or eliminating programs and people that do not do well is imperative. (Virginia L. Thomas, The Heritage Foundation Backgrounder No. 1380).

Fourth: these issues should be honestly debated in the House of Assembly. This will focus attention on where the country should be going instead of continually blaming each other for the various problems facing the country. (Virginia L. Thomas, The Heritage Foundation Backgrounder No. 1380).

The most important point is people must be accountable for their actions.

A Double Standard

The Directors and managers of private companies are accountable for loss of money and for the inefficiencies that affect performance. Why is it acceptable for politicians to lose and/or waste public money and get away unpunished?

If there is only lip service paid to these issues while in government, the party in power will be returned to the “wilderness” in due course.

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