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.
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  1. Now we are getting to the heart of the matter.

  2. We are much like Enron. They had an excellent ethics policy statement. Their systems for monitoring and compliance were lacking.

  3. "Some public men are destined to be loved, and other public men are destined to be disliked. But the most important thing about a public man is not whether he's loved or disliked, but whether he's respected, and I hope to restore respect to the presidency at all levels by my conduct." --Richard M Nixon, shortly before being elected President

  4. ONE of the best conspiracy movies ever made is the perfect British classic, "The Third Man." In the most haunting scene, the
    villain, played adroitly by Orson Welles, takes Joseph Cotten, the good guy, up in a Ferris wheel. The villain, named Harry
    Lime, has been selling adulterated penicillin in postwar Vienna, making a fortune and causing children to become paralyzed and die.

    Mr. Cotten's character, a pulp fiction writer named Holly Martins, asks him how he could do such an evil thing for money.
    The two men are at the top of the Ferris wheel, and the people below them look like tiny dots. Mr. Welles's villain looks
    down and says, "Tell me, would you really feel any pity if one of those dots stopped moving forever? If I offered you
    £20,000 for every dot that stopped, would you really, old man, tell me to keep my money, or would you calculate how many
    dots you could afford to spare?"


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