Opinion: Working for the people

POSTED: 12/20/12 5:17 PM

Finance Minister Roland Tuitt confirmed yesterday something most people already knew: the Taxand contract stinks to high heaven and former Finance Minister Hiro Shigemoto is at the center of this scandal.

There is no need to dive into the sordid details of this contract again, other than to note that Shigemoto saw fit to award a multi-million dollar contract without putting out a public tender.

With the former minister for the time being behind bars it is little use to whine about the past; the future is, as always, more important.

If we look back into our country’s history, we see a long trail of shortcomings, especially in the field of financial management. There is a fat pile of reports by the General Audit Chamber of the former Netherlands Antilles that document wrongdoings and shortcomings. There are also reports from the financial supervisor Cft and now from our own audit chamber.

If a country does not manage in more than twenty years to get its affairs in order there is something awfully wrong. This is not a matter of understaffing or underfunding. This is not a matter of a lack of expertise.

It is, plain and simple, a matter of unwillingness, and our political system is to blame for the situation we find ourselves in today.

The truth of the matter is that our country has plenty of money. That money sits in the accounts of government-owned companies where it is completely beyond budget control. The harbor has been dubbed a piggybank for the politician of the day.

But when that is so abundantly clear, why does not anybody do anything to change this situation? Free up those resources, hire the right people and put all politicians at arm’s length. That would be the ideal situation, but we all know that things don’t work that way.

Politicians have always been in the thick of things, be it at the department that issues building permits, or at all those places where money goes around.

It is an old story and it is not likely to change any time soon. Sure, sometimes a politician will fall from grace and then there is an investigation. That leads usually to endless court cases whereby politicians usually scream blue murder: they are innocent, and they are the victim of political prosecution, and so on. They happily forget that there is a distinct difference between political prosecution and the prosecution of a politician. As Shigemoto said last year: nobody is above the law.

If politicians were honest, would they not want to set up a system that makes fraud and embezzlement if not impossible then at least as difficult as possible? Would they not vote for a budget that makes sufficient resources available to run a professional finance department?

These are simple questions. The answers, or the lack of them, tell us all we need to know. When whistleblowers are run out of town and when no measures are taken to improve the situation, the political leadership is sending a clear message: don’t worry, all is well. Business as usual.

This is no longer a sustainable approach and we get the feeling that Minister Tuitt is among those who are aware of this. It is time to deal with the devils within our political system and put them out to pasture. That would give real meaning to the oft-heard mantra working for the people.

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