Most unsettling

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A couple of weeks ago two ministers gave a press conference to announce that the decision of the National Transport Authority (NTA) to allocate some ‘lines which were a monopoly of the National Transport Corporation – which, en passant, is a monumental failure at corporate governance – to other bus operators would not be implemented. Then Cabinet met and the NTA decision was endorsed. Although this is a stark illustration of poor ministerial judgment in announcing something which has not been collectively decided upon by the top executive body, still those ministers can be forgiven for another instance of managerial poverty.

Then came another episode where the same ministers got Cabinet to take a decision on an increase in bus fares. For those who are not familiar with the mode of decisionmaking in Cabinet, it may be interesting to know that Cabinet can only take a decision if there is a memorandum piloted by the minister responsible for that portfolio. The object of a memorandum is to put to Cabinet the whole picture, the background, the various options considered and the reasons for discarding them and the basis on which a decision is proposed to be taken. The underlying principle is that, since no minister will knowingly mislead his colleagues, a decision can be taken. On account of the binding nature of the decision, ministerial collective responsibility comes into play.

After that decision was taken, the same ministers came to announce that the Cabinet decision could not be implemented as further negotiations were required. Now this is highly irresponsible on the part of those ministers and they have brought the very important institution of the Executive into an awkward situation. They have misled their colleagues and they are either unfit to carry out ministerial duties as our Constitution requires or they are taking the Cabinet as an ordinary and unimportant institution. On both counts they are wrong and they deserve to be censured. This is gross incompetence which should not be tolerated. At a time when so-called gurus come to spill inane and mundane clichés, ministers must show that they are on top of what their work entails. In any event when ministers come to the media to blurt out matters which they have to gulp at a later stage and when they do both so convincingly, they demonstrate that they do not know what they are doing or talking about.

I have always insisted upon the principle that the institutions which we have are good and they must be preserved for the continued viability of our democratic values. Democracy depends on accountability and those who purport not to be held accountable to any values are doing a disservice to the institutions. I am going to use a cliché in gourou-like fashion.

The time to talk the walk is gone and now is the time to walk the talk. If those who talk cannot do the walk, they should be ferreted out in order to unsettle the foundation of Cabinet.

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