More cash, less accountability
Monday, 19 September, 2011After my recent comments on Vision 2016, it seemed best to give the topic a rest. But oh dear, it didn't take long. Within a week of my suggesting that the millions invested in the Vision were likely to be spent on the usual fripperies, consultancies, personal expenses and the like, it emerges that a P3 million tender was awarded some months ago to a 'communications service provider' (in plain speak - advertising and marketing), which incredibly, will undertake fund-raising activities and organise live music concerts (Mmegi 15.9.2011).
With a chunk of the year already gone, and with time now so short for measuring its success, the company must be confident of securing at least one more P3 million contract; to do more fund raising, organise more concerts and produce more promotional junk - T-shirts, DVDs, and little jingles. We are in the middle of a nasty recession. The government has stated that it is short of cash. There has been no money to lift civil servants salaries, the Francistown City Council has just learnt that 90 percent of its National development Plan (NDP) 10 projects have had to be carried over to NDP11 (Guardian 16.9.2011) and the Vice President himself has said that 'critical development programmes' have had to be foregone. Why? Not just because there is no cash available - because for Vision 2016 it is obviously available by the bucketful. Cancel that tender and at least P3 million is immediately saved.
But it isn't working out like that and for now it's bonanza time for anyone with a feel for cash to move in.
Motivational speakers, for instance, could make a killing But try looking at the hand out literature or Google the Vision, be immediately bemused by the miles of verbiage, and note from the 19 page, undated and unauthored Strategic Plan (another P3 million, presumably) that whole thing is a major mess, which will probably take years to sort out - the last 10 years or so having been spent in a major dither, not knowing what to or how to do it. But hold it, the Plan will definitely need to regularly reviewed and updated - at a hefty price, of course.
For the bureaucrat, the Vision must be dreamland, a morass with the incomprehensible piled on top of the unintelligible. For anyone else there are real gems. One of the Vision team's responsibilities is to monitor the NDP. What then is the job of the Ministry, which produces this plan? Has it gone out of business? The Vision Council is described as being highly respected without indicating by whom? With not more than 50 members it's break down list amounts to 52). One member is stated to be Blackie Marole of the Debswana Diamond Company and another Iqbal Ibrahim who ought to be a member although not as an Eminent Person, there being no such category.
The Vision Council, so says, the website, is 'answerable to the nation' - not to the government, which provides the mountains of cash and not to the National Assembly! How then does the nation ensure that those sticky little fingers don't start reaching for the till? Obviously it cannot. The nation employs no auditors and it has no oversight capability. Is the DCEC keeping a very, very sharp eye on this nasty bag of tricks because, not least, there is an extraordinary absence of financial transparency for an outfit, which claims that transparency is one of its key pillars. Notably the Vision's own budget is not merely not revealed, it is concealed. Yet, ever obliging, the government hands out more and more cash with the likelihood that even more will be needed if a significant part of the population proves to be apathetic, disinterested and disinclined to 'live the Vision'. Buying one's way out of a problem rarely works. Even late in the day, it might have been more helpful to take note of the significant differences between the Seychelles Expo 2020 Mission and our 2016 Vision.
There the Expo plan revolves around the President. Here it doesn't. The responsibility of the Vision staff team, for instance, is to 'ensure that the President is aware' of what is happening that he will be given 'useful advice' and believe it or not, 'secure the support of the President'! At this stage!
Does he, or do they, decide what is or is not 'useful'? And does it matter what either of them thinks? But then again, consider this classic, 'the measurement of progress will be informative and motivating'. Yes, yes, of course it will be: as that P3 million works its way towards the ever open drain. Accountability? Sorry, I nearly forgot. If, and I quote, the Vision people are not held accountable (by whom?) they will not achieve the desired results. I suggest that the National Assembly needs to emerge rapidly from the shadows and begins to do the job the electorate expects it to do.