There was a hue and cry in the population when questions were asked in Parliament on the procedures for the emergency purchase of medication and medical equipment during Covid-19 pandemic. The replies, however scanty, pointed to a likely glaring abuse of the emergency procurement procedures.
Government explanations did not satisfy the population as millions of rupees were wasted or went indirectly into the pockets of some staunch supporters of the ruling party. The Director of Audit and the Public Accounts Committee were equally stunned and issued smashing reports, severely admonishing the government for its poor decision-making and lack of accountability and transparency, resulting in the sheer waste of public funds.
In an attempt to redress the situation, the Minister of Health came up recently with the Central Medical Procurement Authority Bill which was approved by the government, but criticised by the Opposition on governance grounds. Defending the bill, the Health Minister had this to say:
‘’The importance of integrity is a fundamental principle when it concerns the management of public funds. Those responsible for public sector governance need to exercise leadership with the highest standard of professionalism. For the purpose of good governance, there is need for accountability and transparency.’’
What is the weight that should be given to the words of the Health Minister in the light of his track record? Judge for yourself. A few weeks later, he brought two bills to Parliament to amend the composition of the Medical Council and the Dental Council to give himself more powers to appoint additional members on both Councils. How would we expect more accountability and transparency when more non-independent members and people close to the Minister would be appointed? This goes against good governance practices!
The mission of Democracy Watch is to uphold government decisions based on good governance and to criticize those decisions that smack of poor governance. In so doing, Democracy Watch always tries to offer solutions and suggestions for improvement. However, we do not believe in empty words!
In the present case, may we suggest that, in the name of accountability and transparency, the government urgently appoints a Covid-19 Inquiry on the lines of the UK Covid-19 Inquiry? That will help understand the decision-making process adopted by the High Powered Committee and also the implementation mechanism worked out by the Public Officers and Advisers. The lessons drawn will no doubt prevent succeeding governments from committing the same blunders.
Will the government be bold and wise enough to institute such a COVID-19 inquiry without delay? Let us remain hopeful.
About Democracy Watch
The Democracy Watch Mauritius team is an independent and non-partisan group.
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