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A call to serve country—not self
The EMBDC debacle could have been prevented, avoided or averted with swift action on the promise made at the time of the recent Cabinet reshuffle, to deal with State Board appointments. There have also been rumblings and convulsions at UTT, EMA, CAL, MTS, T&TEC, WASA over Board and/or senior Executive appointments and the Government has done a good thing to acknowledge that there is a problem. However, the time is coming when action needs to be taken.
If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times—you cannot put hungry people to guard food and the hunger may not only be a monetary hunger . It may also be a hunger for fame, power, authority, recognition, or just attention. When you have people with deep seated needs or cravings in any of these regards and you put them where they can just turn on the spigot of money, power, clout or authority, it’s really like putting a kid in a candy store.
There is an urgent need to look at and fulfil this promise to deal with all these State Board appointments and the Government needs the gumption and the testicular fortitude to make cuts and changes where necessary. They may have been trying with quiet backroom diplomacy to avoid embarrassing public flare-ups like the Central Bank and EMBDC issues but it is clear that this kid glove approach will not always work, especially where you have individuals who seek to act as laws unto themselves.
Add to the mix a never-see-come-see attitude and the results are predictable—the purchasing of aircraft which are left to lie idle while taxpayers dollars go gushing down the drain; the procuring of a luxury SUV for a Board Chairman who says he needs it to get to meeting. Didn’t he have a vehicle before or was he taking PTSC to get from San Fernando?
There was also the procuring of an ultra-luxury Porsche Cayenne for the Minister of Food Production, ostensibly to go out into the fields, drains and ditches. The list can go on and on, but having acknowledged the problem, let’s focus on a solution.
The Government enjoyed a wondrous and glorious honeymoon period but has recognized and acknowledged that mistakes and mis-steps were made along the way. There are now rumblings and grumblings from supporters, and this they ought not to ignore. One can read and sense the frustration and disappointment coming at times from Rhona Baptiste, Clarence Rambharat, Peter O’Connor, Dana Seetahal, Martin Daly, as well as daily newspaper editorials from time to time.
We need to listen to what they are saying and move beyond just trying to shoot down the messenger while ignoring the message. Let us as mature, rational individuals, listen and understand what these people are trying to say and be intelligent enough to recognize that not everyone who makes a criticism of some action of the government is a critic of the government.
There is such a thing as constructive criticism from people who genuinely want to see the government do better and succeed, so let’s display some political maturity and social savvy in dealing with such issues. When one looks at how Parliaments function in developed countries, members can respectfully disagree even with their own Government’s policies but it is done with tact, diplomacy and in a genteel, dignified manner, where mutual trust and respect is not eroded or undermined.
Maybe the Prime Minister is at this level of maturity and wisdom and may be ahead of some of her Cabinet colleagues in this regard, because she said at the two-year anniversary celebrations at Mid-Centre Mall that the Government had listened to the voices of its supporters as well as its critics and has heard them. Now what needs to be demonstrated is that it is willing to take the next step to take action in cleaning out the stables.
The Cabinet reshuffle was supposed to be the first step in this process and dealing with State Board appointments is the logical next step. Dealing with the question of diplomatic appointments must also become an urgent priority. After doing this, the riot act then needs to be read to all State Board Members and Chairmen for them to understand their roles and responsibilities and fiduciary duties and financial accounting requirements.
They need to understand their primary duties of accounting to the nation first for their stewardship, management and superintendence of the persons, materials, finances and resources under their command and control. Their accountability is not to Party, tribe, race or religion, they account first and foremost to the State of Trinidad and Tobago.
They need to also understand, as the Attorney General is doing in pursuing legal action against former Board members of State Enterprises, that there can be consequences for their actions if mismanagement and squandermania of the resources of State takes place under their watch.
They need to be reminded of the liabilities and responsibilities of Directors under the Companies Act and they need to understand more than ever that an appointment to a State Board represents a call to serve country and State, and not self or friends and family.
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