‘Um, um, where did all de money go’
View from Off the Hill
Sixes and fours, bumpers, googlies and spin. It’s Cup Match folks and not another day on the Hill. That also means it’s a short week so I will stick with a little quick line and length, which is never a bad approach off and on the field.
Like me, you are probably still working your way through the statements and counter-statements on that $700,000.00 settlement and whether that was or was not a good deal in light of the advice Government received. Not to mention the OBA claim that the PLP cost us an additional $4-million on the contract when they fired the project’s first architects. Like me you might also think this not entirely satisfactory and that’s putting it mildly. As far as I am concerned the whole sad, sorry financial fiasco underscores a point that I have been trying to make around these parts for years now.
Our Westminster system provides for, and we desperately need, an active and robust Public Accounts Committee (PAC) that can monitor and assess these multi-million dollar projects as they proceed and not just after the fact. PAC can summon and question key personnel with assistance from the Auditor General. It makes so much more ‘cents’ (and dollars too, hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars) to track these projects publicly as they proceed, calling decision-makers and managers to account, which might actually achieve some accountability when it matters. Bolting the barn door when the barn itself is in question may make for good political theatre, but little else. We want to know, ‘um, um, where did all de money go’, and did we get good value for our dollars? It now seems like an historical exercise, sadly: no tragically, given current financial circumstances.
Maybe like me, your eyes also rolled when you read how much it cost for the statue of the late Dame Lois Browne-Evans, $218,610.00, and the claim by local artists that they could have done it for less had it gone out to bid for them. At or about the same time this was making news, the PLP MP who was once the Minister in charge was now asking on the Hill whether Government intended to put their insurance contracts out to tender. My, my, my, my, my (to quote Joe Brown) isn’t it wonderful how much clearer things become when in Opposition; arguably even clearer still when you’re completely off the Hill. But I digress. Of course, all major contacts should out to competitive tender. Period. End of story.
Mystified maybe like me at the news that the African Diaspora Heritage Trail Foundation has lost its charitable status, but apparently continues to receive funding from Government? Or is supposed to. We don’t know because the Minister wouldn’t tell us when the story first broke. On the other hand, Government is also overhauling the Charities Act, looking to make oversight of charities more effective and charities more accountable. The Diaspora Trail was once touted as a key tourism attraction. So what gives? Pardon the expression but somebody really ought to ‘pink up’?
This may or may not turn out to be a good thing but I note the House on the Hill is down and out for the next six weeks or so. Just in time for Cup Match and maybe none too soon. Someone asked me the other day, in all seriousness, after Friday’s emotion to adjourn, whether what goes on up there is reflective of how we as a people manage our relationships off the Hill? Good question. I look forward to your answers. But don’t let the bloggers be your guide. My take is that a good number of them are anonymous for a reason: they are party partisans, sidekicks and apparatchiks grinding it out for the cause. Take in The Game instead. It is the leading example of the warm and welcoming conviviality for which we as people are renown. But please do us all a favour: leave the politicking at home. That’s not cricket.