25 July, 2010
Checks & balances
Neither Checks nor Balances: In my submission, the Westminster Model Constitution, which we in this region have all inherited, is intrinsically corrupting. It almost seems designed to promote bad government in our countries and territories. One of its distinguishing features is a complete lack of any mechanism to control abuses of power.
Other than the opportunity afforded us every five years to change the faces of our representatives through general elections, there is no publicly enforceable restraint on their abuse of power. There are no provisions for the recall of an errant politician. There is no procedure for impeaching a Minister caught with his hands in the cookie jar. When major decisions or changes in the law have to be made, there is no question of a referendum or other mechanism for ensuring that the wishes of the people are made known and followed. In most of our territories there is nothing to ensure that misspent public funds will be questioned in a forum that can impose accountability.
Yet, effective measures for ensuring accountability and transparency in the government of small countries such as ours have been known for years. Members of our Executive Councils and legislatures have been lectured on the issues for decades. We have previously discussed them in earlier posts. The only thing holding us back from putting checks and balances in place is a lack of political will.
We are going to spend a few days revisiting the problem of the lack of accountability and transparency in our government. We shall do so under the three general headings of (1) Integrity; (2) Accountability; and (3) Transparency. These are not mere slogans. There are certain outputs that we look for, certain features of a system of government, that permit us to say that a government is accountable and transparent. When these features are not present in the structure of government, we are usually justified in stating that the government lacks accountability and transparency.