Commission of Enquiry Commissioners, Professor Uff and Mr Khan, last week, asked, maybe not in the friendliest of tones, what your compensation package was and you told them that you, a man paid by the public, did not want to disclose the figure to the public in a public hearing by a Commission of Enquiry. Can you see the irony here, Mr Hart? Is your package so big that is must be kept hidden from the public to prevent scaring them? This hiding of packages, as your would be aware by now, left your-salary-paying-public quite annoyed and caused much speculation about the size of your package, compensation package that is, on the Internet. As you are well aware by now, without facts rumors spread and then rumors become the facts. As you are also aware there is a great level of distrust in the minds of the public about your company’s conduct in spending the people’s money, which is caused by the hiding of information from the public. There is also a view that your company is not only mismanaging public funds, but also are overpaid, overrated and shady. This Enquiry is the golden opportunity for you and your team to dispel these perceptions but you appear to have more to confirm and hide than deny. As I said before, it is only a perception by the public and may be far from the truth.
Your supporters and fans said you are a man who can get the job done but Wall Street were full of can-do individuals, some even as competent as yourself. What I understood, or misunderstood from the enquiry so far is that you appear to operate like a secret agent, probably nicknamed 009 or something, with an unrestrained license to build. You appear to get your orders from a mysterious and unknown boss like Tom Cruise did in Mission Impossible, and your approach is that of an unbridled bulldozer. You can correct me if I am wrong and I hope I am.
However, Mr Hart, in your defense, your approach might be what the public needs to jolt us out of slumber. After all, our Public Service was designed to find creative and innovative ways to not get anything done or to get it done in the slowest way possible but not without lunch. Just look at the Police Service, the Licensing Division, Ministry of Works and the Immigration Department. Ineffectiveness seems to be their mandate and the staff is well versed in carrying out this mandate. Your team, on the other hand, was designed to provide buildings on time, within budget, without excuses and without public outcry. I suppose you can’t behave like a public servant and deliver like the private sector. But, Sir, even in the private sector there are rules and codes of conduct which are followed and it’s not a free for all by any means. It is almost always someone else’s money to account for.
So, this is the dilemma. Should we continue with the traditional way with a prolonged and inefficient tender procedure where the contractor with the lowest bid and who can’t do the job is selected or should we go the way of the unbridled bulldozer? The answer is almost obvious and the best of both worlds is what the public demands. The public did not get value for money using the traditional method and will certainly not get any value for money when there is no accountability. But how we go in the future will be a political decision guided by public sentiments and I don’t mean to burden you with decisions that are not yours to make.
Managing the public’s purse is always tricky and surely the powers that be must know how hard it is to justify cost overruns on useless projects and the awarding of tenders to friends and sometimes, even family members from distant lands. Maybe that is why you were considered the right man for the job, I don’t know. I am not suggesting you did anything illegal, immoral or unscrupulous since that is for the Commission of Enquiry to decide. My job, as a member of the public, is an everlasting one and that is to express my displeasure at what I see and keep on wondering whey de money gone.