Birds of a feather work together

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I don’t get it! Is the government out to choose the shadiest characters to fill some of its most prestigious positions, have the hiring standards set by government institutions become so low, or is it simply a question of incompetence; the kind of complete ignorance of the most basic standards of background checks that leads the government to again and again hire people not fit for some top positions? The answer has to be one of these.

I don’t know which one or which is worse but the latest recruitment of Anoop Nilamber at the head of MauBank – as revealed by our sister publication l’express – is very bad news for the banking sector in particular and the financial sector in general. Offering the top position at the helm of a state bank to someone who has been suspended from carrying out any banking activity for five years – having signed a bounced cheque – sets some alarms bells ringing. It confirms again the government’s propensity to forge head on into decisions with little regard for what has become a basic routine part of any job recruitment, particularly for such high positions. Is there such a shortage of people to fill government and parastatal jobs or is it a question of birds of a feather…?

This is not the first time the government has displayed its propensity to opt for people who cannot boast a squeaky clean record. Top of the list is Bissoon Mungroo, an ex-convict who is now sitting on the board of Air Mauritius, with all the advantages that that entails! Mungroo was convicted of swindling when he was at the Meat Authority and did time, which should have disqualified him from any position that requires trust and dealing with state funds. His past, however, turned out to be irrelevant when the MSM came to power. The same rule applies to the appointment of advisers: Prakash Maunthrooa found his way to the Prime Minister’s Office as a senior adviser while he was up to his neck in a corruption case in which his alleged accomplices had already been tried and convicted. And while the case was going on, he was being shuttled from the PMO to the court and back without any sign of embarrassment. 

Still in the chapter of advisers, Stephan Toussaint was not left out of the fun. When it was pointed out in parliament that his own adviser, Jean-Mée Sandian, had been convicted to 100 hours of community service, he looked the MP asking the question straight in the eye and said that it is not “normal procedure” for advisers to submit a certificate of character prior to appointment in ministries! 

But then again neither is a certificate of character required of those being advised. The number of ministers and MPs in this government who have been implicated or against whom there is a prima facie case in some crime or another is surreal. From involvement in drug trafficking as in the case of Roubina Jadoo-Jaunbocus and Sanjeev Teeluckdharry to embezzlement and sexual harassment as in the case of Sudhir Sesungkur, it seems as if the selection of candidates at the last election was based on how disreputable one is!

We always knew that this policy of closing one’s eyes to the past of those who are in the good books of the government would one day backfire and blow up in our faces. And it did when the now notorious Angolan Alvaro Sobrinho walked onto our shores, had the red carpet rolled out for him and, like a storm, blew over everything on his way – our Presidency, our financial sector, our reputation as a jurisdiction, the rating we had, the respect we enjoyed…

Did we learn the lesson? Of course not. Watch the other Sobrinho – a more dangerous one this time – Glenn Agliotti, who rumour has it has got a licence for a cigarette plant from the Economic Development Board after being convicted of drug trafficking in South Africa and wait for more damage to come! 

Don’t tell me we are not going out of our way to handpick them on purpose! 

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