Weekly (Port Louis)

Mauritius: Transparency At Its Best

opinion

So the board of SICOM sat to review its purchase of Rakesh Gooljaury's property in Ebène. So, they themselves questioned everything they themselves did in the whole transaction and they unanimously agreed with themselves that what they themselves had done with taxpayers' money was absolutely fine and that buying the building in fact has economic merit.

We are not investors but using some of the little common sense we have, we find it hard to see economic merit in SICOM buying a building yet to be built when it has a brand new building in Port Louis which is still vacant.

But it is not our place to decide for them. We do not mean to claim more knowledge of real estate than the learned members on that same board when we say that there is a glut of office space in Ebène and Port Louis with thousands of square metres lying vacant and that rentals are continuously nose-diving. They have their own experts and advisers to whom we bow in humility, so we will not dwell on that. Let us rather look at the cherry on the cake.

SICOM's chairman, Kushal Lobine, suggesting that there is nothing wrong with an associate sitting on a board taking decisions about one's own associate's property. And the worst part of this whole issue is that there isn't anything legally wrong with that.

But is legality what the debate is about? Naturally, we are not talking about ethics here; we stopped dreaming ages ago. The question is that the perception of bias created by this whole saga is the worst possible thing for governance?

The perception that some are working hard and, while their living standards are being continuously slashed through enforced austerity, others are having a ball with their tax money, is enough to dampen the morale of the most serene citizen.

Having said that, we are far from impressed with Pravind Jugnauth, who still has not answered for the Med Point scandal, standing as a justiciary trying very hard to look like our local Mahatma.

All this happened on his watch. He himself, perhaps pre-empting any information which may leak out, admits that he did call Rakesh Gooljaury into his office - now hold your breath - to tell him that the deal was not right. Seriously?

A minister of finance calling an ordinary citizen to tell him that the undue benefits he is about to receive are not a good thing? All this under the very nose of our prime minister who keeps hammering on about transparency.

The long and short of this whole disheartening episode we are going through is that we have had enough of our intelligence being insulted and we no longer have any stomach for politicians committing the worst possible types of corruption together when they are in the same bed and denouncing each other only when they jump out of bed.

Time has never been riper for real reform: limiting the mandate of ministers, including that of the prime minister, having more transparency in all the matters which involve the money we work so hard for, the allocation of contracts and recruitment, access to information and banning the practice of rewarding cronies with jobs for the boys.

Also, and perhaps more importantly, regulating the financing of political parties. That is the root of all evil. Short of these reforms, we shall just be replacing one corrupt politician with another more corrupt one every five years. Don't we deserve better, damn it?

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