Why is Don Mitchell Obsessed With Good Governance? I suppose it is guilt. What do I mean? Nothing keeps a man more honest than the fear he will be found out. Confession is good for the soul. With those two maxims, let me examine why I seem to be obsessive about the need to act properly in government. Since I was first appointed to the Public Service Integrity Board three years ago, I consider that I have been involved in a fraud on the public purse. This is my confession. It is nothing new. Deputy Governor Stanley Reid will tell you that I have used the identical words to him on several occasions. So will Governor Alan Huckle, Governor Andrew George, and PS Foster Rogers. Let me explain.
It is a fundamental principle of government that no civil servant may expend public funds on a purpose that has not been approved by the House of Assembly. Every penny spent must come under a “head” in the Estimates that are approved by the Assembly each year in the Budget. No matter how worthy the object, there must be no exceptions. When I served as a Head of Department in the
The first was the appointment to the position of Chair of the Public Service Integrity Board. When I was first appointed at a salary, I asked Governor Allan Huckle how I was going to be paid, since neither the post nor the Board existed in the establishment. The funds to pay for the Board had never been approved by the Assembly. He assured me that it was all right. The members of the Board would be temporarily paid out of “good government funds” that had been provided by the British Government under a Budget approved by the British Parliament. No further approval of the Anguilla Assembly was required. As soon as possible, the expenses of the Board would be incorporated into the Anguilla Budget, and formally approved. The Board carefully approved and presented a Budget. The idea was that it could be included in the annual Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure. Years have passed. The
Then, in early 2006, I was asked to participate in a Commission to advise on the revision of the Constitution. It was to be called the Constitutional and Electoral Reform Commission. The positions were to be salaried. There were to be printing and other expenses. I was to be the Chairman. How was it to be funded, I asked. Assurances came down that it would be paid initially from discretionary funds in the office of the Chief Minister. We were asked to prepare a budget so that the costs could be included in the national Budget in due course. With this assurance, the Commission duly prepared a budget. We submitted it to the authorities. It exceeded one hundred thousand dollars, not an insignificant sum. Months passed. The Commission completed its work. A year has now passed. The national budget was approved in December 2006. Not a penny of the Commission’s cost was included in it. No retroactive approval was sought from the Assembly. Worse, the Commission never received any explanation as to how the funding was approved.
The result is that, over the past three years, I have increasingly felt smeared by an unspoken accusation of participation in a series of frauds on the public revenue. I feel great discomfort, verging on paranoia. That, I suspect, is the source of the guilt that causes me to harp on the subject so obsessively.