Truth and accountability are the essential pillars of democracy

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  • Commission of Inquiry (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

    Commission of Inquiry (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

Democracy should never be taken for granted, since there are always those who choose to operate outside of basic commonsense rules that promote order, honesty, integrity and transparency. This is particularly required when it comes to leadership roles in serving the people. Whenever there are instances in any country, large or small, where such values are compromised to meet certain objectives, the essential pillars for democratic principles are weakened.

This should never be allowed to happen without an attempt to address developments that indicate irregularities in management of the people’s business. Those who hold positions of power and authority should never lose sight that they are mandated as gatekeepers whose remit is to do the right thing in the interest of the people.

However, in the political arena, it is not uncommon for violations to occur in maintaining the highest standards of truth and accountability.

Without the watchful eyes of the people, and the free press, a great deal of issues concerning truth and accountability would slip into the shadows of time, and that would create conditions where democracy is reduced to a word with no real meaning.

Anyone who values truth, decency and transparency would object to that path. This can be a sensitive area when political allegiances accompanied by deep emotions are entangled with the ability to assess matters without bias, and lines are drawn over who is right or wrong.

The recent conclusion of the Commission of Inquiry into alleged violations in the handling of the public purse, and the subsequent report it produced, touched a nerve with many people in different ways, depending usually on political persuasion. That was to be expected.

However, in trying to keep an open mind on what has transpired, the result of the commission’s findings could be a significant step in helping to establish higher standards for any government operations to avoid the need for such an inquiry in the future.

Another side to this, is that the Auditor-General’s Office, which is charged with keeping a microscopic watch on the people’s purse while monitoring various government transactions, is duty-bound to highlight any matter where it is deemed that accountability and rules were infringed upon. That is their task and it should be fully respected. Democracy thrives on truth and accountability, and the freedom to ensure that those principles are protected.

The Commission of Inquiry had to wade through some testing moments during the process to gain as much information as possible in the search for potential answers to the serious allegations that involved millions of dollars disappearing from the public purse and where there exist huge questions of accountability in the management process and in what went wrong. The mere mention in the report of possible criminality was of deep concern.

Of course, the commission made it clear that no one should draw conclusions regarding guilt. However, the panel felt investigations into a number of issues should be carried out in the interest of seeking truth in determining what really happened in the highly questionable cost overruns with some projects.

Governments in democratic jurisdictions worldwide encounter situations from time to time where truth and accountability become significant issues, and trying to right the ship can be daunting task when no one is willing to give ground in deciding where the blame lies.

Political wounds can run deep and there will be people who, no matter what facts emerge, will not shift their allegiances.

Bermuda now needs to take a deep breath and digest carefully the conclusions of the Commission of Inquiry before allowing emotions to boil over. We all know in the political arena that there are times when truth and accountability are swept under the rug as an image-protection tactic.

Somehow the truth always makes it to the surface, and whether it is through the people or the media, the pillars of democracy are kept solid as long as those values are paramount handling the people’s business.

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Published Mar 18, 2017 at 8:00 am (Updated Mar 17, 2017 at 11:30 pm)

Truth and accountability are the essential pillars of democracy

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