Checks and Balances. “Who put fowl to mind corn?” (BVI proverb)
We are saying there are two main reasons why our most promising politicians eventually betray us. We have looked at community pressure as the first corrupting cause. What is the second corrupting factor? I would submit that it is the lack of adequate checks and balances in our Constitution. It is not lack of moral fibre. It is not lack of education. It is not lack of integrity. It is a lack of enforceable rules.
The Westminster Model constitution which we have inherited is intrinsically corrupting. It almost seems designed to promote corruption. One of its distinguishing characteristics is a complete absence of any mechanism to control abuse of power. Other than the opportunity afforded every five years to change the faces of the exploiters through election, there is no publicly enforceable restraint on abuse of power. There are no provisions for recall of an errant politician. There is no procedure for impeaching a Minister caught with his hands in the cookie jar. No, the Governor does not insist the police prosecute corrupt politicians. They are glad to have a handle on one unlucky enough to get caught. “Better the devil you know, etc, etc” There is no question of a referendum, or other mechanism for ensuring that the wishes of the people are followed when major decisions or changes in the law have to be made. There is nothing to ensure that misspent public funds will be questioned in a forum that can impose accountability. There is no working anti-corruption procedure. Cabinet controls the House of Assembly, so that the Legislature provides no oversight to protect the public interest. Our form of government is generally described as a Cabinet dictatorship.
What to do? We’ll look at that next.