Prof Ramesh Deosaran writes a weekly column for the Newsday.
Nightmare. One description of this word is “a frightening dream,” another is “a terrifying or very unpleasant experience or situation,” (Concise Oxford). When I listened to Minister of Local Government and Rural Development Kazim Hosein on the television news last Wednesday evening, no doubt he seemed to have just emerged from a very unpleasant experience – seeing all kinds of rubbish dumped, from TV sets, fridges, stoves, to boxes, bottles etc. His faced showed disgust. I felt sorry for him. How shameless it is for businessmen to secretly dump their old tyres on back streets.
Dumping rubbish where and when nobody is watching is now part of the country’s lawlesasness. Will the Environmental Management Authority, Solid Waste Management Company and Planning Minister Camille Robinson’s proposed legislation on containers and beverages, styrofoam, land developers, etc, bring relief to Minister Hosein’s nightmares? The minister faces other “unpleasant situations” – local government fraud, wastage, staff indiscipline, etc.
Last year, the crusading minister attacked “corruption in municipal corporations across the country,”(Express, August 4). Checking on the Chaguanas Borough Corporation, he complained that “too much abuse was taking place regarding the use of vehicles at regional bodies and he intends to put a stop to this activity,” (Guardian, July 31, 2017). He continued: “I know there is a lot of corruption in the corporations because I get text messages and letters every day.” He planned an inquiry.
Then, visiting the Princes Town Regional Corporation last year, he attacked “corruption and abuse of overtime,” announcing that permanent secretary Desdra Bascombe “has instructed ministry officials of the audit department to conduct investigations into the complaints,” (Aug 4, 2017). Is there now a report for action?
Facing several more nightmares two weeks after, the minister discovered fraudulent cheques worth half a million issued in the name of the Arima Borough Corporation. Another investigation. There are more nightmares – stolen cheque from the San Juan/Laventille Corporation, allegations in April 20, 2017 of a driver earning overtime pay of $361,126,26 while driving “a high-ranking officer” at the Sangre Grande Regional Corporation, etc. One month after, the ministry’s permanent secretary sent a letter to the Director of Personnel Administration (DPA) to appoint an investigation officer to inquire into this Sangre Grande affair. Is there a report?
Facing nightmares of wastage and lack of accountability, Minister Hosein declared: “This is taxpayers’ money. I will not tolerate abuse of it. Whether you belong to a political or administrative arm, do the right thing.” Do the right thing in this country, minister? It takes courage. The lawless culture will resist and even rebel. So many nightmarish delays and obstructions along the way. In fact, for this, many good and honest citizens are reluctant to serve on boards, committees, etc. They get either stressed out or pulled down.
Minister Hosein’s complaints against wastage and corruption compel the Cabinet to take a closer look now at how its proposals for corporations to collect their own taxes will work with the expected integrity, efficiency and accountability. Remember, local government is now essentially governed by Central Government.
Minister of Agriculture Clarence Rambharat in the face of numerous complaints, declared: “The fact is, when we interface with members of the Public Service it seems you asking a favour. You have to wait until they reach to work; you have to stand up outside and wait for them to open their offices. Then you have to wait again if lunchtime comes.” This is so, he added, because there are no proper systems in place to hold public servants accountable for their actions, the public also has to put up with the attitudes of some public-sector employees,” (Newsday, January 15).
A few days after, former public service head, Reginald Dumas, said: “After I left, a lot of people said to be experts in human resource development were brought in at very senior levels, people who really did not know anything about the Public Service.
Many of them became permanent secretaries without knowing how the Public Service worked and that appears to have a negative effect,” (Newsday, January 17).
Such misguided interventions and the inappropriate selection tests used then by the DPA and the Public Service Commission, it is said, have aggravated, if not initiated the decline, the nightmares, in the Public Service. When will Minister Hosein’s nightmares stop?