RELOOK: IS AHPETC A SERIOUS CASE OF INCOMPETENCE?

Everyone reading the media would come to one conclusion, ie, the biggest case of public service incompetence must be the AHPETC. You hear the ministers talking about it practically everyday. You read in the media just as often until ‘jer lat’.

Are there other cases of public service that are more serious than the AHPETC? Just think about it. I say just think about it, not to talk about it. Think of anything? Don’t tell me. I don’t want to know. I left this article at this point yesterday not very sure how to proceed from here.

This morning, 16 Jul, I was greeted by two articles from the Auditor General’s Office on lapses in the NLB and the Admiralty CCC. In the above paragraph I said I chose not to know, but with these cases in the front pages of the media, even I closed my eyes, I cannot refuse not to see them. It is now common and public knowledge.

Now my problem is how to comment on these lapses? Shall I put them side by side with the AHPETC case and show the similarities? Better not. With the GE around the corner, it is better to change tack and read it from the right perspective. Issues like these would become election issues and the opposition parties would definitely compare them and their severity with the AHPETC case. Comments already flooded a thread on the topic in TRE.

What were the cases about? The facts first. In the NLB’s case it was the procurement of a $7.3 million e-resource system from a vendor and apparently without looking at other alternatives or no tendering or something like that. The exact words, “ ‘without any evidence’ of having considered other alternative materials that were similar”. In the case of the Admiralty CCC it was about the Chairman approving seven of his own claims amounting to $114,767 and the approving and award of two contracts amounting to $32,000 when he held a senior position in the company. No one can miss the similarities in these instances to those of AHPETC. Conflict of interest anyone? How serious compares to husband approving wife’s application for payment?

I will look at these cases as lapses in procedures and how to rectify them. They happened, let’s move on. Oh, based on the AGO’s recommendation the Ministry of Communications and Information had made a police report on this case. Before anyone started to use strong words, it is important to understand that some of these agencies and people are new to these things and have to start from scratch. With their inexperience, they are likely to be lapses in procedures but with no intention to cheat or foul play. They would not understand the meaning of conflict of interest. How to expect people from the villages of a 3rd World to understand such concepts of impropriety? Being too harsh on newbies is not very kind and a bit unfair.

In the case of the NLB and Admiralty CCC, are these new institutions? Would they have precedents and existing practices and procedures to work on? Would they have paid expertise like govt officials and procedures to guide them? These are important factors to determine whether their actions are mischievous or innocent and due to ignorance. I think NLB is a new organization. The old NLB is history, so they have to start things all over, to reinvent the wheel on operating procedures.

Another angle to look at is that being a 3rd World country and without foreign talent, such lapses are bound to occur. We just don’t have the expertise and the experience about such things. It may be good to hire 3rd World experts with the experience to show our ‘going to be’ 3rd World no skill and no talent people how to run public organizations and how to develop proper procedures on checks and controls. This thing about approving own claims or approving jobs or contracts with connected parties are things that are new to a new 3rd World country like ours, only 50 years in existence. We should learn from older countries and govts that have all these procedures worked out and in place. They are very experienced in such matters when such things are part of their culture.

I would suggest we hire more 3rd World talents to help us iron out all the administrative loose ends and lapses. Alternatively we can send our people to 3rd World countries to learn from their best practices. I think these should work. Are we a young country? Oops, we are not even a country, a city, going from first World to 3rd World and these lapses should be considered normal, our new normal.
We should thus be more forgiving and not to act as if the sky has fallen down and go for the kill. It is so embarrassing and so unbecoming to jump up and down like little brats accusing inexperienced people for such lapses.

What do you think?

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