By book and by crook

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More than the scandals themselves, it is their reaction to them that is more worrying. It’s unfailingly, “We have followed procedures!” And you can’t say they’re not playing by the book!

That is once again the reaction of the authorities to the latest recruitment scandal broken by our sister publication l’express this week. Minister of Employment Soodesh Callichurn’s immediate reaction to the unfair recruitments at the expense of those who have no links with politicians was – as expected – “We followed procedures. The recruitment was made by the Central Water Authority”! And if that is not a satisfactory answer, we were even told that the CWA based itself on a “computer-generated” list that “cannot possibly be manipulated”!

I am sure you have not yet forgotten how Youshreen Choomka had made her way from part-time chairperson of the Independent Broadcasting Authority to full-time director of the same organisation before having to resign following a corruption scandal but, just in case, here are the full details again: she followed procedures: the job was advertised by the board of the IBA which Choomka chaired. The recruitment was entrusted to a private company – Alentaris. Choomka applied for the job she had advertised without knowing that it was the job she had advertised. And it so happens that the very independent recruitment agency found no one more qualified or more suitable for the job than the chairperson of the board that had entrusted it with the lucrative task of recruitment. Coincidence, I tell you. It was the same coincidence that resulted in the recruitment of 60 doctors in the public sector many of who so happened to be close to ministers and MPs!

When, recently, Minister of Health Anwar Husnoo walked away with Rs15 million of our hard-earned money for a plot initially evaluated at Rs6 million, his reaction was the same: “I followed all the procedures”! It was not the government that decided to give such a modest gift to Husnoo, stupid! It was the judge heading the Board of Assessment who had, out of the goodness of her heart, decided that a minister’s plot is worth nearly three times as much as an ordinary citizen’s! In fact, since Husnoo did not contest the government offer – why would he as he himself found it too generous – the Board of Assessment had no other option but to rubberstamp the decision!

The government also followed all the procedures before allocating another Rs15 million to Raj Dayal, the former police commissioner who had been dismissed after being found guilty of a range of offences from corruption to insubordination by a commission of enquiry and a tribunal. In fact, Attorney General Maneesh Gobin even looked us straight in the eye and said it was actually the previous government that had decided to give Dayal that manna from heaven!

Think of all the scandals – Vijaya Sumputh, Sheila and Naila Hanoomanjee, Namrata Teeluckdharry, Wenda Sawmynaden, Koonjoo’s nephew, Sudesh Rughoobur’s family… even Alvaro Sobrinho – and the reaction is the same: we followed procedures! The recruitment at the CWA is yet another episode where they followed all procedures and it so happened that the computers – the culprits – decided that half of the recruits should come from the constituencies of the ministers in charge.

As the election gets nearer, expect the competition to recruit within one’s constituency to increase. And no prizes for guessing who the 11,000 public sector jobs announced – and not needed – will go to. But procedures will be followed. So go home now. You’ve caused enough trouble as it is. They have played by the book. They always do, don’t they?

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