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Being fit for re-election is about character

Commission of Inquiry: Fiona Luck, Chairman and former Court of Appeal Judge Sir Anthony Evans, John Barritt and Kumi Bradshaw. the Commission of Inquiry’s report is of critical importance, especially in election year (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

If I was asked to describe the fundamental character of successful organisations, the first attributes on my list would be integrity, empathy, experience and competence. The degree to which successful organisations possess these attributes would naturally vary in that some possess more of one attribute than the other.

There is little doubt in my mind that if any of those four attributes is lacking, any organisation will fail to reach its full potential. And, should an organisation possess the opposite character of any of those attributes — that is, corruption, indifference, amateurism and ineptitude — you could predict its demise.

The same principles also apply to governments. Like everywhere else in the world, Bermuda’s economy, and its social issues, are all directly linked to the character of the Government. A government that lacks integrity, empathy, experience and competence will distress our economy and exacerbate our social issues.

This is precisely why the Commission of Inquiry’s report is of critical importance. Especially in an election year, voters would be wise to note the chasm between what political parties claim when they canvass versus what they actually do when they are in power.

It should be no surprise that there were naysayers when the commission began its work. After all, the Auditor-General was attacked or ignored whenever a special report on the Government’s affairs was released. So, naturally, claims of a witch-hunt were made, especially given the timing of the inquiry.

Also of particular concern, has been the attention paid to the racial composition of the commission members. While race absolutely does matter, there is a critical need to notice if a person raises the topic with an objective of increasing understanding, enlightenment or justice. That is, we need to be wary of those persons who seek to exploit our sensitivity to race for political expedience, personal gain or to exact retribution. Frankly, in this context, implying that race is a prequalification for objectivity is odious and should be rejected. Why? Because if there is one thing that Bermuda’s political history has taught us, it is that you cannot trust a politician based upon the colour of their skin.

Both white and black politicians across all political parties have betrayed the voters’ trust at one time or another. We should therefore demand a fair evaluation of the facts, and not allow people to use race to deflect our attention from information that demands our critical evaluation.

And what of those facts? The commission’s report goes well below the surface of the Auditor-General’s reports, simply because ministers and civil servants were required by law publicly to explain their conduct. Up until now, what actually happened during numerous government contracts had been swept under the rug. Without the inquiry, we would have been none the wiser.

Not only have we been able to see the degree to which financial instructions have been deliberately ignored or broken, we have also been able to see the degree to which ministers have interfered with the operation of the Civil Service. In several cases, we aren’t merely dealing with matters of transparency, but also matters of collusion, which are of far greater concern to the Government’s operations.

The commission’s findings of a frequent pattern of possible criminal activity should be of grave concern to all of us. Should the police fail to press charges, this does not necessarily mean that no wrongdoing has taken place; it means that criminal activity cannot be proven, or that individuals have been falsely accused.

This is why the Government’s financial instructions are so important. They are in place to protect taxpayers from incompetence and corruption. When civil servants and government ministers have no regard for financial instructions, our financial security is threatened. Given this, civil servants and politicians must be held to account for their misconduct, which is precisely what the Commission of Inquiry has done.

A government that is a law unto itself will lead us to ruin. Thus, it is not enough for the One Bermuda Alliance to have the commission investigate and report its findings. It is also not enough for it to commence legal proceedings in circumstances that it perceives to be clear cases of unethical or fraudulent conduct.

If the OBA wants to prove that it has experience, then it must show that it will follow financial instructions. If it wants to prove that it is competent, then it must do all that it can to improve the Government’s systems and processes.

Most importantly, if it wants to prove that it has integrity and empathy, it must lead by example and demonstrate zero tolerance for possible criminal activity.

•To reach out to Bryant Trew, e-mail bryanttrew@mac.com