Friday, October 31, 2008

PSIB - Resignation

Public Service Integrity Board.  My four-year stint as chairman of the Public Service Integrity Board has come to an end.  Someone else will have to take over.  I wish him or her every success.  I was lucky in my colleagues.  Pastor Cecil Richardson, Allister Richardson and I had a very cordial and cooperative relationship. 
The Hon Stanley Reid's letter was very gracious. 
I would like to thank you for your devoted and invaluable service.  I believe that your task as a member has been demanding and possibly tedious at times but your commitment to serve has assisted in ensuring the smooth and proper functioning of the Anguilla Public Service.
The truth is that the task was neither demanding nor tedious.  The work of the PSIB should not be too difficult for the new appointees.  The job of the PSIB is a very simple one.  The PSIB's functioning is prescribed by the Act of the House of Assembly that set it up.  Its duties are limited to advising the Governor on those matters concerning alleged conflicts of interest of civil servants that the Governor chooses to send to the Board for its advice.  Full stop.  Period. 
The PSIB does not deal with any real issues of integrity in the public service.  No member of the public has the right to complain to the Board about a conflict of interest.  No person may send the Board any allegation of lack of integrity discovered relating to any public servant.  Members of the Board may not investigate any allegation that comes to its attention, except that it was sent by the Governor.  In all those four years, there were only two that I can recall.
The result has been that the functions of the Board have been pretty mundane.  The majority of the issues put to the Board for advice were comparatively trifling.  A customs officer wants to help out his brother part-time, after working hours, in his supermarket.  Will that be a conflict of interest?  A secretary in the Ministry of Finance wants to do a part-time job in the evening as a manicurist in a hotel.  Will that be a conflict of interest?  Please communicate the views of the Board to His Excellency soonest.
What about the allegation that a driver of a public service vehicle is using it as a taxi?  No, the Board has no concern with that.
What about the police officer who was caught red-handed shoplifting?  No, the Board should not ask any questions about that.
What about the immigration officer caught taking sex and groceries in exchange for residence stamps?  No, the Board would be out of its depth dealing with that.
What about the senior police officer forcing himself on the new women police constables in exchange for promises of promotion?  No, the Board should leave those issues alone.
What about the teacher seducing the high school student?  No, leave that to the proper authorities.
The problem is that in Anguilla the proper authorities have become experts in art of the cover-up.  It is not in the interests of senior officers in any branch of the public service to prosecute or even to fire a junior officer committing crimes of immorality or dishonesty.  That would stir up a can of worms.  Much better to deal with the problem “administratively”.  That has invariably meant shifting the offender to another job and closing the file as soon as can decently be done.  No one is ever subjected to disciplinary proceedings, far less prosecuted.
The trouble is that the children are observing.  The public are watching.  The lesson being taught is that there are no consequences of wrong-doing.  Once you are an Anguillian, there will always be someone looking out for you.  When all discipline breaks down, when the young people enter the work force and demand to be paid without doing an honest day's work, what will happen?  The growing numbers of them sitting listlessly under the trees in every village enjoying the stupifying effects of their ganja and crack are already there for all to see.  The hypocrites in the churches and in the high echelons of society pretend shock and surprise. 
We will all know that the rot started at the head. 
The failure of Anguillians to demand the highest standards of those in authority and power over us will have been at the root of the problem. 
If it is too late then, don't blame the PSIB.