The routine of submitting the annual Audit Report has been followed with the release of the latest one. Many things are unpredictable. Not so with the Audit Report: it is known in advance exactly what it will contain, and this is confirmed in the contents of all the Audit Reports that have come down to us over the years, through successive governments irrespective of political colour.
As usual, the Report is damning about all manner of unacceptable things happening in government departments and parastatal bodies. You name it and it is there. Delays in completion of projects that inflate the initial costs at the expense of taxpayer money; irregularities in procurement procedures and award of contracts; favouritism of various kinds, in various sectors and at different levels to political heavyweighs or protégés; abuse of their position by sundry heads of bodies, such as acquiring big cylinder vehicles, misusing them for non-official purposes and so on; abuse, misappropriation and diversion if not siphoning of funds; unaccountable gaps in the finances of organizations; acquisition of outdated or soon-to-be obsolete equipments; stocks of unused equipments that are irreparable… Readers can prolong the list for themselves: there will be no dearth of issues of dysfunctions and irregularities to identify.
One must really feel sorry for the Director of Audit and the staff of the department, who year in year out have to not only compile but come face to face with the seemingly endless list of facts that can leave one depressed about the state of the country. There is clearly so much of taxpayers’ money wasted that could have been used for example to create employment or provide much needed supplies across the board, or of manques-à-gagner. And that too because of all the wrongs factored into the system due to the egos, greed and vanities of people who are in a position of wielding power, tweaking procedures or manipulating resources to ends which are not in the national interest, but meant for personal purposes.
And again predictably, there will be loud clamours and debates in the Parliament, and in public by a plethora of civil society spokespersons and trade unionists about the ills that the Audit Report uncovers. Soon enough, these noises will die down, and there will be official undertaking to bring about corrective measures and make sure that rules and regulations are strictly followed henceforth. Until the following year, when everybody, from politicians to the people, wake up to yet another Audit Report which repeats exactly similar dysfunctionalities, followed by similar comments and similar undertakings…
Perhaps, now that there is a formal Ministry of Good Governance, things will be different? For that, though, we will have to await Audit Report 2016…
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The Responsibility of Leaders
Clearly, it is the responsibility of our leaders to rectify the wrongs, bring order into the system, consolidate regulatory institutions by ensuring that they are manned by competent people committed to the rule of law and ethical rigour (perhaps more even if no codes of ethics exist!!), ensure enforcement processes and procedures in an impartial but dignified manner commensurate with what is expected of a civilized country, and avoid weakening the polity.
At all times and under various governments, best intentions with which they kickstart their new mandates soon get forgotten as they get mired in personal clashes or one- upmanship games, which sap the energies that ought to be put to use for the betterment of the population’s standards, according to promises made to change the lives of the people within 100 days or whatever imagined time limit that they themselves set.
The result is a periodic morosity that sets in, but that can become protracted and discourage people further. Fear and uncertainty is created in their hearts and minds, with many people feeling that the country holds no future for them and their children. As the politicians keep shouting that our only resource is our people, this does not prevent those who get a chance to prefer other shores, even though this may not be on as big a scale as it was around the time of independence. The unemployed who number in tens of thousands are justifiably worried about what will happen to them, as the long-term visions sound like déjà-vu: whatever happened to ‘Vision 2020’ – and will ‘Vision 2030’ have the same fate? This inevitable question is legitimate – but will the youth get the desired answers from those who are proclaiming it? Will their chances of gainful employment commensurate with their qualifications and skills really improve? Talk of training and reskilling does not impress them because they have heard this before, and they have seen for themselves what the situation is despite that.
They are also worried, even angry, about perceived, anecdotal or experienced accounts of political interference in institutions which are supposed to be more than a notch above any manipulation or lobbying. They are concerned about the mainmise over institutions, and apprehensive about the centralization of control, decision-making and actions that flow therefrom.
Statesmen understand the crucial importance of the separation of powers and of non-interference in the workings of the respective institutions that derive from them. The youth are expecting to have statesmen who set out to unite the country and the people. Who, having spelt out the vision and the agenda around common goals of construction and reconstruction, proceed to set out firmly the systems and structures to ensure implementation. Will the new National Advisory Council and the related organisms be up to the long term challenge? Hope has been generated in hundreds of thousands of Mauritians’ hearts – and that hope must not be dashed. This is the height of responsibility that leaders of all hues now face – one they have bestowed upon themselves. And the people expect that such hope will be fulfilled on the part of those who they trust to lead by personal example of morality and probity, and make everyone feel that they are participants in the national effort.
Enough, they feel, of the divide-and-rule game which favours the few at the expense of the many who get thrown off the economic bandwagon and are left to themselves. With as result an increasing gap between haves and have-nots, pauperization and insecurity as official statistics invariably confirm.
What are urgently needed are a brand of statesmen who will put a premium on hard work, who will tell people and demonstrate too that hard work pays. Who will inspire people towards self-effort, create the conducive and enabling environment and seek out the newer opportunities that can move their people and their country forward.
No more of politicians who encourage la facilite, the mentality that you can get things without putting in hard work, thereby shifting the burden on those who do so. Now that some concrete strategic choices have been made, let us hope that the leaders who have presented the carrot before the people will steer the course and see to it that things do really happen as they should, and as promised!
- Published in print edition on 11 September 2015