22 August, 2007


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 Anguilla public service in the 1970s, we regularly received a circular from Financial Secretary Franklin Connor reminding us that if we misspent one penny, we would be made to pay for the cost out of our own pocket. So, Anguilla is supposed to be subscribing to this principle. But, to my dismay, I have been immersed by the Anguilla authorities in two programmes that offend this principle. It has been done in spite of my protestations, but, still, I have gone along with it.

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 UK government has long ceased to pay for the Board. I understand that the Board and its expenses are now locally funded. No part of the Board’s budget has ever been submitted to the House of Assembly. I have repeatedly asked who pays the expenses of the Board. No satisfactory answer has ever been forthcoming. So far as I am concerned, the Board is part of a gigantic financial fraud on the public revenue. Every time I mention this to the relevant authorities, I am met by a knowing smile and a wink. I am told to keep quiet. Everything has been organized! And, this in relation to Anguilla’s Public Service Integrity Board! I cannot convey to you the sense of outrage that I feel every time I contemplate the irony of it all. It is no exaggeration to say that the situation leaves me with a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach.

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.


  1. The government's budget contains huge amounts that are "explained" by simplicities such as "allowances", "wages" for non-established staff, "operating cost", "professional and consulting services and "rental of assets." The obvious purpose of these is to give the people as little information as possible and still conform to the rule that the budget is a public document. No accountant in an honest public company would allow such foolishness.

    By using this ruse, government reduces itself to another NICA.

    That reminds me, what was the outcome of all the noise about NICA some months back? Are we waiting for Bob Rogers to die in poverty or what?

  2. The government carefully places their people within positions where no questions would be asked. What do you expect, look at all the departments and see who heads everyone of them and then tell me if this is not a careful thought out plan, do not ask no questions, and you would hear no lie. My friends would not offend me neither I would offend them. It is a big group of political friends. Some departments are not functioning, better yet they are useless, you could do without them. Mr Mitchell I understand your concern but that it the reality of how it is in Anguilla.

  3. The writer above is correct, and part of the reason why this is possible is that we have lacked a real newspaper. If we read the article on the review of education in this week's "Anguillian" we see the exact same "to-do list" that the now-Minister was talking about in 2004, before he won the election. The United Front promised not only to improve education, but to allocate the necessary funding to do so. As a result of the Minister's inaction, this has not happened.

    I was pleased to read Nat's editorial, in which he recognizes the urgency of taking real action in education. Every few months, Nat awakens to his responsibilities to the community.

    The Minister's inaction seems to arise from laziness, while Nat's is caused by sleeping sickness. Help is available, Nat, but please go to the clinic, not a private doctor, so you can share the experience of those in our community who must depend on the services of the Health Authority.

    Feeling is believing, Nat.

  4. Reporting isn't just about writing down what people say, it's also about questioning and investigating the truth of it too. --St. Maarten Private Eye


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