An immodest proposal

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After listening to parliamentary debates and press conferences on the CEB/BWSC and Hyperpharm scandals that have been rocking our island for the last two weeks, I would like to make an immodest proposal: contracting our government business to a foreign agency.

Consider this: the African Development Bank (AfDB) sanctioned BWSC for having given bribes to the “Mauritian administration”. The company investigated the bribes given in Mauritius, conceded that they had taken place and sacked five of its employees. The AfDBwrote to the CEB informing them of the matter. BWSC wrote to the same CEB director, ShamshirMukoon, informing him that the bribes had indeed been given for the St. Louis project but that this had not been mentioned “to protect the reputation of clients such as CEB”.

“Government costs us a few billions every year. Advisors are drawing insane salaries. Ministers and MPs are indecently overpaid. And we are relying on foreign countries to tell us that there is corruption and malpractice in this country?”

All this was happening in Paradise and the ‘administration’ saw nothing and knew nothing. Neither the CEB general manager, who received the information, nor its chairman who – before and after an unsuccessful attempt at contesting the last election – was heading the board where the issue was discussed, knew anything about it. Naturally, the minister in charge knew nothing as his representatives on the board did not hear anything worth reporting either. As for the prime minister, he was true to the revisited mantra of “As far as I know, I don’t know.”

The prime minister and the deputy prime minister are drawing more than half a million rupees each as monthly salary and allowances. They are entitled to security details and advantages rarely seen in other countries. If, by their own admission, they don’t know anything, what exactly are they being paid for?

Notice also, if you please, that this disease of generalised ignorance has spread to other ministers too. Minister of Health Kailesh Jugutpal (salary over Rs300,000) doesn’t know anything either.  A Rs1.3 billion contract to supply medicines and medical equipment, again using the same emergency certificate, was given out by his ministry.  An obscure company by the name of Hyperpharm took the lion’s share of Rs93.5 million, supplying our hospitals with medicines which are allegedly substandard and grossly overpriced. The World Health Organization had warned against this phenomenon happening in African countries. The minister in charge first lied in parliament, denying all of this. Then he came back the following week to make a historic statement which translates as follows: “I don’t know anything. The leader of the opposition has people to inform him so he can give me the information”!

This level of unforgivable ignorance extends to other members of the government too. Even the grinning PPS, Ismaël Rawoo, did not know that he had been given a piece of land worth Rs250 million and wanted proof to be provided. Nor did he know that the other two shareholders bearing the same name as him were his closest relatives!

Government costs us a fewbillions every year. Advisorsare drawing insane salaries. Ministers and MPs are indecently overpaid. And we are relying on foreign countries to tell us that there is corruption and malpractice in this country?

In the Boskalis case, we were the last to find out that bribes had been taken by our own people and it took us a decade of dodging justice to have the culprits convicted only to then be appointed as advisers! It took the European Union, the Financial Action Task Force, the International Monetary Fund and even the Indian Supreme Court to break the news to us that we no longer have competent and independent institutions to be considered a serious jurisdiction. And now the AfDB has to tell us that we are corrupt? Meanwhile, those at the helm are proud of their ignorance!

With a fraction of the cost we are paying for avowed ignorance, we could perhaps get good, open and competent governanceif contracted out?And practices which reek of nepotism and corruption mighteven be curbed!

An immodest but patriotic proposal. Think about it with an open mind and a good,solid dose of humour!

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