The secrecy addiction

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The excessive and systematic secrecy surrounding just about every contract that the government signs on our behalf is becoming more and more unsettling. And the government’s response to any request for transparency is absolutely revolting.

So the speaker, in her great wisdom, has decided that the contract the state has signed with Mangalore cannot be tabled by the leader of the opposition! There is a confidentiality clause which makes any disclosure of information impossible. End of the conversation.

So the government has signed a huge contract away from the public eye with a company of its choice for reasons we don’t know, without going through any tender exercise and it is none of our business? We are forking out the money without knowing how much or whether we got the best possible deal or not and we are supposed to move along nothing to see here?

And it’s not as if it was the first time. This opacity has come to characterise every move that this government makes. Not so long ago, the prime minister looked us in the eye and said he could not disclose the terms of the contract he signed with the government of India concerning the line of credit. Our children and grandchildren will pay for this loan until the end of our days but the terms of the loan are none of our business. We just fork out and shut up.

The contract with Larsen and Toubro is also a state secret. Don’t even go there. It is a fixed contract, they said, so take their word for it. Don’t go into the details. Those are for grown-ups. Pay up, ask no questions, hear no lies.

The CEB has created three companies dealing in billions of rupees. No tender. No transparency. No accountability. None of your concern.

Mauritius Telecom is about to walk away with a Rs15 billion contract to spy on hapless citizens. Not only don’t you have the right to know but you don’t even have the right to ask. It is a private company so don’t even go there.

What is the agreement with the government of India about Agalega? Who is constructing what for whom? Is there a military presence there? It’s a state secret. Don’t even start!

What about the Special Purpose Vehicles, specially created to channel the loan from India to the different projects? Exactly, if we wanted any transparency, we would not have created them. These are private companies meant to employ cronies and dig in the public purse. But because they are private, you have no right to ask any questions about how your money is being used.

Considering the huge amounts of money involved, expect this secrecy to extend to the sale of passports and the Mauritius Sovereign Fund where the money being dreamt about – from the highly reputable people that this brilliant scheme is likely to interest – is supposed to go.

What is it that drives government secrecy? It can’t possibly be security. It can’t even be embarrassment as there is little disreputable conduct that the government members haven’t tried to justify.  Too much government information is kept secret, not to protect the country but to keep improper conduct from us. But we, lepep admirab, are happy to sit and passively watch those we elected to protect our interests treat us with spite. So government secrets are likely to only grow in size and scope.

“It's not what happens to us, but our response to what happens to us that hurts us,”  Stephen Covey said. Something for us to reflect on as we obediently and dutifully pick up the tab and once more pay the price of their indecent secrecy!

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