Accountability is pointless without consequences

Dear Editor,

In your Friday, December 28 news article, ‘Gov’t more accountable after opposition pressure, says APNU,’ I must say I agree, but with one commonsensical caveat: if there are no consequences, then accountability is pointless.

Before I delve into that point, let me concede that while it is true that the Chihuahua-sized AFC has displayed Rottweiler ferocity and pit-bull tenacity in its dogged fight against the stubbornly corrupt PPP regime, it is also true that the combined parliamentary opposition (AFC-APNU) deserves the credit for hanging in there despite carefully orchestrated efforts by the regime to frustrate and wear out the opposition.

If anyone believes that Parliament did not achieve anything of substance this past year, s/he needs to consider that this is the first time in Guyana’s contemporary political history that the ruling party does not have a parliamentary majority, and because the new parliamentary opposition is determined to restore transparency, accountability and responsibility in government, the government is deathly fearful of any forensic probe of the mountain of corruption that could further erode what is left of its support base in Guyana.

On this score, the government has done everything in its power this past year to delay, divert and distract the parliamentary opposition from pursuing its sole mission on behalf of voters to hold the PPP regime accountable for the pervasive corruption and its excesses and other failings. On the one hand, it would opt for the court whenever it wanted legally binding rulings in its favour against the parliamentary opposition, and on the other hand, it would push for tripartite talks when it did not want legally binding decisions. But the end game was always to frustrate and wear out the parliamentary opposition, while hoping to show its remaining voter base that it cannot get its work done because of an ‘obstructionist opposition,’ so that if snap elections are called, the voter base would return parliamentary control to the PPP. The only problem is that the longer this protracted impasse drags out, the more damage is being done to the PPP as the opposition and media keep exposing its shenanigans.

So, yes, the parliamentary opposition, with tons of help from Kaieteur News and Stabroek News, has done well this past year weathering the delaying, diverting and distracting tactics of the PPP, and must now step up its game in 2013 by demanding and pursuing via the court the punishment or consequences aspect of accountability.

Any organization, regardless of the nature of its reason for being, must have accountability if goals are being set for different layers of players/personnel for the organization to achieve. Unfor-tunately, in Guyana, the word ‘accountability’ has been bandied about so many times it has become almost passé in our daily lingo, so that we have become immune to waste, mismanagement and outright corruption, when we really should want to see some forms of punishment meted out to culprits.

Everybody – including the PPP, APNU/PNC, AFC, the Auditor-General’s office, the private media, civil society stakeholders and prominent private citizens – appears to be in favour of accountability in government, where employees are  made to account for their actions or inaction.

Editor, in sports, poorly performing players get cut from the team after some amount of talking and probable training. In business, poorly performing managers and employees also get cut from the team after talking and probable training. Only in politics it appears as though one can perform poorly and still get rewarded. Now, don’t get me wrong: I am not big on punishment and consequences unless basic steps have been exhausted in the process of changing behaviours that contribute to poor performance.

However, when we consider the Auditor-General’s reports for the past decade alone, this goes beyond poor performance. We find case after case after case of acts worthy of indictments and court trials. These actions don’t point to mere poor performance, but deliberate and brazen ripping off of taxpayer and public funds. These cases don’t deserve talks and training; they deserve consequences and harsh punishments.

Editor, it is good that the opposition has pressured the government to become more accountable, but as I stated at the outset, accountability without consequences is pointless. During the Jagdeo era of rampant corruption, there was no disincentive to stop the rip-offs and if there is none now, then voters will have wasted their votes on November 28, 2011 that called for the opposition to help make and keep the government honest and clean.

I also repeat what I said in a letter a few months ago: The parliamentary opposition and the private media might as well shut up, pack up and move away if all we can do is talk about or report on corruption and the need for accountability if there are no consequences and punishments being meted out to culprits identified in clear cut cases of corruption.

Just as there is a culture of pervasive corruption, there needs to be a culture of accountability with both commendations and consequences. Therefore, Guyanese are counting on the parliamentary opposition to hold the government fully accountable and responsible or be prepared to face the consequences in court. That’s right, the government is not the only institution that can go to court, and so the ball is now the opposition’s court. Play to win or go home!
Yours faithfully,
Emile Mervin

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