Transparent selection process

By TP Saran

For a party that built the institutions of this country from the bottom up, we are afraid that it is no longer quite keeping up to this image

The revocation of Robert Desvaux as chairman of the Mauritius Tourism Promotion Authority leads us to ask a question that follows automatically from similar situations that have occurred in recent times. In fact, since the Labour-led government has been in office since the year 2005 how many heads of government organisations (chairmen and directors) have been either abruptly revoked, hounded and forced out or given direct indications – such as Mr Harry Booluck – that they had better get lost?

Preceding Mr Desvaux’s case, that of Dr P Mohadeb of the Tertiary Education Commission is the one that received much airing in the media. It was almost public knowledge that the minister concerned and Dr Mohadeb did not see eye to eye. In all the previous stepdowns that have taken place, from Air Mauritius to the SBM, the public hardly has any information about what exactly has been the matter that led to such unpalatable circumstances, and why it was necessary for the incumbents to go. After all, it is the money of the citizens and the taxpayers’s that is involved, even if indirectly. So, in the name of the transparency and accountability that all political leaders keep drumming upon, would it not be reasonable to let the country and the public at large know why the incumbents were chosen in the first place.

Yes, they were political nominees, which in itself is not a sin. But given the reluctance of all governments to disclose anything about the reasons why they put their trust in X, Y or Z, perhaps there is a need to establish a mechanism to determine the genuine competence of any prospective candidate?

In certain countries, people who aspire to certain positions are put through a step-by-step process whereby their knowledge, skills, ethics and attitude are evaluated by established methods. We have repeatedly made the case in this paper that it would save the politicians, political parties and their political leaders a lot of criticism, thus sparing the country too, if they instituted such a process before they placed someone in a position of national responsibility. Only last week in his interview to the paper Mr Mohamad Vayid has lamented the lack of any concrete progress having been made in the ‘Maurice Ile Durable’ project so many years down the line.

That so many are asking to join the Labour Party may be an indication of other things, but certainly not of its effectiveness on many fronts. For a party that built the institutions of this country from the bottom up, we are afraid that it is no longer quite keeping up to this image.

As the editorial in last week’s issue of this paper noted: ‘…one could think of laying down specific performance criteria for each appointee which would be regularly monitored by an independent body for suitable redress action before it is too late. That will help politicians not to have to bolt doors when the horses are already out of the stable.

Mauritius cannot successfully vie against the actions of public bodies of other countries whose executives and boards are made up of world-class competent professionals if it does not follow the same practice. Countries which don’t follow this best practice have consistently fallen behind. We must be having a number of truly competent people who don’t wear any political colours. But political parties have drawn rather persons of variable competence from within their own fold to fill up positions, as a payback for services rendered or to be rendered.

This system has kept most of our public bodies in the under-performing range. The liability so accumulated calls for a serious rethink. On the other hand, there is such a hegemony of politics in almost all matters over here that a lot gets done for the sake of keeping or preserving political power. In that case, everything becomes part of a game politicians play. Unless we transcend this game-playing, we will keep delivering poor execution at the level of the country as a whole.’

The ball is in the government’s court.

* * *

Famous Mauritius!

With the announced discovery of a microcontinent, Mauritia, under the ocean between Mauritius and Reunion, Mauritius will now get a chance to be truly famous for the right reasons, instead of those of scams and scandals that have been tarnishing the image of the island.

The last time we were truly famous was when the dodo became extinct, and we were thus granted the notorious distinction.

Let us hope that no one from the political establishment starts a paternity claim game over this discovery!

* Published in print edition on 8 March 2013

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