THE EDITOR: A Charles of Mount Hope in his letter in the April 15 Newsday, entitled “Heads should roll in $3M tiles scandal,” seems to capture the almost obscene indifference of politicians in this country to being accountable for their actions.
All his telling questions about checking the “slippery” status of the tiles in question before purchase; about hiring a “reputable contractor” who didn’t seem to have experience in laying tiles; about a THA official suggesting that the wrong choice may have been an “oversight,” never squinting for once at the $3 million repair bill, and, to add insult to injury, the same official likely knowing that it would be OK to appear before the Public Accounts Committee which would let him get away with it, which it did, tell of the anger and frustration of every right-thinking citizen of this country who would like to see our money well spent and public officials having to answer, when it is not.
Such people, however, seem to be in the minority in a political culture where the public purse seems to be there to be raided by politicians and their satellites, great and small, one in which even as we don’t question our leaders for fear of losing their patronage, so too at a lower level, as in the instance with the tiles, we don’t ask questions of lesser officials about mis-spending, for to do that would be to upset the prevailing culture of “you scratch my back and I yours.”
But this attitude of not rocking the boat goes beyond tiles. It’s almost cultural, as with all the questions related to the new ferry which we have all seen before, with the routine of the Opposition alleging and the Government denying, with no attempt to get the real facts which would ward off suspicions of misspending.
And then there is the private oil scenario with so many accusations, yet being allowed to fall into abeyance without anyone having to answer, or the case of contractors receiving multimillion-dollar contracts from the Government when professional ethics forbid the same because of existing lawsuits.
And what of the issue of exorbitant rents being paid to government officials with the usual tooing and froing in Parliament and the issue being allowed to die a natural death? And can we forget the allegations of financial impropriety related to some currently sitting MPs with no insistence on their giving account?
But there is a more telling effect of this lack of accountability in the political sphere. The whole society seems to be following suit so that the criminal feels he can ply his trade with impunity, the vendor can fleece you with no public pressure, the professional can charge you exorbitant fees without having to account, and I can go on and on and on.
But in the final analysis giving account is not merely a political phenomenon which you can merely disregard to your advantage. It’s a moral/ethical/professional issue that has to do with good character, a matter of doing the right against the wrong and feeling a sense of shame when you are in violation of that human tenet.
But how carried away can we get sometimes, as perhaps A Charles of Mount Hope is, for getting frustrated over something neither he nor I can change.
DR ERROL N BENJAMIN