13 October, 2009


Transparency and accountability have never been a prominent feature of Anguilla’s Ministry of Infrastructure.  If we have managed up to now to avoid wholesale corruption in the public service construction sector, this has been a result of the personal ethics of individual managers.  It is not a built-in characteristic of the service, buttressed by procedures that guarantee transparency and accountability.  On the contrary, public procurement of goods and services goes on in secret.  Major contracts are awarded on what basis nobody knows.  Outcomes of the implementation of public works, whether of success or failure, are studiously concealed.  Everyone in Anguilla takes this state of affairs for granted.  It has been the norm for decades.  In this environment suspicion and rumour abound.

So, I was interested recently to read a speech given by Chairman of the Trinidad and Tobago Transparency Institute, architect Victor Hart, to the Association of Commonwealth Societies of Architects in the Caribbean.  They were meeting in Trinidad to consider the problem of transparency and accountability in construction procurement.  Mr Hart dealt at length with the problem, mainly from an architect’s point of view.  Of particular relevance to us was his description of some of the transparency tools that have been developed for this area.  This is part of what he said:

The introduction of greater transparency in the construction sector requires the use of tested and proven tools and strategies by trained persons. Over the years, TI and others, such as the Global Infrastructure Anti-Corruption Centre, have researched the problem and developed tools and strategies that can be applied locally. TTTI recommended the adoption of three such tools/strategies to the Commission of Enquiry, which hopefully will be included among the Commission’s recommendations in its report to government:

a)         TI’s Integrity Pact the details of which are on website: www.transparency.org/tools/contracting.

b)         The Global Infrastructure Anti-Corruption Centre’s Project Anti- Corruption System (PACS) the details of which are on website www.giaccentre.org.

c)         The UK Anti-Corruption Forum (ACF) model the details of which are on website: www.anticorruptionforum.org/acf/news/publications/. Of particular interest on that website is the paper recommending greater transparency on construction projects ‘Transparency in Public Sector Construction Projects’. Also of interest is the paper entitled ‘Preventing Corruption – Guidance for Professional Bodies’.

The links are fascinating.  They would be of advantage to Anguilla's managers if only they could be persuaded to read them and to take up some of the suggestions.  

Anguilla’s public works are frozen at present.  This is a temporary reprieve from the usual full-steam-ahead system.  The financial crisis that we have partly caused by giving away to foreign developers all of our tax revenue for the next twenty-five years means that we no longer have the credit surpluses to spend on necessary construction.  Borrowing is being proposed as a solution to the problem of lack of income.  The British have said they will permit us to borrow more money if we can demonstrate how we will down-size the public service and increase our taxes starting next year.  Our government and their financial advisers are working on complying.  We can expect that they will come up with a way to ensure that the cash will begin to flow well before the next general elections which are due in five months time.

When that happens, it is highly unlikely that we will be in any better position than we are now.  Government still refuses to reveal the details of expenditure on the last airport expansion project of 2004, despite promises from the Minister of Finance in the House of Assembly.   

There are no plans to improve accountability and transparency.  No one in Anguilla is even looking at any of the three tools described on the websites above.  No one either knows or cares about the problem.  Instead, everyone is jockeying for position.

The Anguilla public sector construction arena will continue to be one in which there is no level playing field, with contracts being routinely awarded to party favourites.  Contractors will be forced to spend time and energy on worrying about bias and nepotism instead of concentrating on delivering projects on time and within budget.  We will continue to wonder what deals are being struck behind closed doors.  While some contractors will struggle to collect payment for services rendered, others will appear to be receiving favoured treatment.  Foreign consultants and contractors bearing generous gifts will mysteriously be preferred above local equally qualified ones. 

Fair play, transparency, and accountability will continue to be unknown in the Anguillian public sector construction sector. 

That is my gloomy prophesy for when the new airport expansion, the new government headquarters, and The Valley road repair contracts are awarded.


  1. Transparency appears to be a major issue throughout the Anguillian government, given some of the examples you have discussed in the past (draft of new constitution, MOA's with developers, financial reporting, etc.). Apparently selective disclosure is the order of the day - at best.

    Thus, as a side note it is interesting to note in an article that appeared here (http://www.anguillaexpress.com/?p=452) that "Anguilla along with other member and associate member states of Caricom has designated October 15, as Caribbean Statistics Day."

    What's the point of promoting the "creation of greater awareness and appreciation for statistics and to raise attention to the role of statistics in national development", when almost none appear to be publicly available? The GOA's statistics web site (http://www.gov.ai/statistics/statistics.htm) is a joke. The most "recent" information is, in most cases, years out of date. The only 2009 numbers on the site are for tourism, inflation and external trade, but the tourism numbers haven't been updated since February, the inflation numbers since March and the external trade numbers since April.

    Does Anguilla actually have a Statistics Department that still produces real numbers? If so, could the web site be stale because someone doesn't want anyone to see what the statistics can tell us?

  2. Those interested in promoting transparency and accountability in the construction sector will be interested in the Construction Sector Transparency Initiative. See http://www.constructiontransparency.org for details.


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