Government–the thing we love to hate so much but without which we can do very little… at least in Guyana.
We love to loathe government, to criticize, to demand things from it, and even to become attached to it to the point of extreme dependence. When the government in our estimation fails us, the persons that make up the government are set upon, ridiculed, scandalized and in some instances demonized. If some members of the public had their way, the government would be subject to Jedwood justice.
The problem is not the government or too much government or too inefficient government. The problem is with the people. If tomorrow, government were to be miniaturized, the country would come to a standstill because for all the self-righteous drivel that is heaped upon the authorities, life without government, however imperfect and flawed it is, would be reduced to misery.
The people simply cannot do with enough government. They would love nothing more than for Guyana to find oil so that the monies can be found to fork out more of their own personal responsibilities to the government.
The problem is not inefficient government because there are far more inefficient forces outside of government.
The public, however, loves to flog the government. The public expects the government and the officers to be perfect but the very judges of that perfection are no more perfect than those who they wish to criticize.
Very little slack is cut for the government and whenever some problems are highlighted, these are magnified out of proportion.
Take for example, the report of the Auditor General. Now this is a very important report in any country because without it there would be no accountability and very limited transparency. So it is something good that there are regular and timely submissions of the reports of the audit office.
There were, of course, for many years, accusations that in the past no reports were published. This was made into something of political anthem by the government when criticizing the opposition.
Now we are hearing that those accusations may not be accurate because somebody has a list indicating that the reports were submitted.
Well, somebody having a list does not clear up anything. Does it? And the media seems quite content to let the matter rest there. All it will take is for some reporter to ask the Auditor General, both the present and the past, to confirm that the reports which were said never to have been tabled were in fact tabled.
That is all it will take along with a determination as to whether the reports said to have been tabled were unqualified or qualified.
That should settle the issue as to which administration was more accountable than which.
But that is asking too much of our journalists. They are quite happy to uncritically regurgitate extracts from the recently tabled report of the Auditor General and highlight those deficiencies to a public with an appetite for absorbing these deficiencies and converting them into claims of massive corruption.
I am yet to see a country in which there are no deficiencies in public accounting. I am yet to see the country in which the accounting officers do not point out a number of things which need to be put right.
But in Guyana with our penchant for mauling the government, the mere fact that some ledger may have penciled notations is now the basis for casting suspicion over the accounting process.
There will always be problems in accounting procedures and while this does not mean that these problems should not be rectified, the existence of such problems should not be always construed as evidence of corruption.
The fact also that certain accounts which were supposed to be closed were closed does not mean that the funds in those accounts have disappeared. What these things point to is the need for improvement in the ways certain things are managed and there is not likely ever to be an auditor’s report in which no recommendations for improvements are made.
People should also not get worked up about there being losses due to expired drugs. There is no health system in the world in which there are no such losses. The government purchases drugs and these drugs are kept in a bond until required to be used. Not all will be used and in budgeting, these things have to be catered for just like in a home where you may always buy a little extra of something in case there is an additional need.
In every system therefore there will be some redundancies. The danger of under stocking is far greater than a small degree of overstocking. And the sum of thirty odd million in expired drugs should not be frightening development in a country that purchases billions of dollars in medical drugs each year.
Allowances have to be made for such losses.
However, efforts should be made to have greater inventory controls and improved systems based on what the Auditor General reports. And in those cases where there is suspicion of criminal wrongdoing, the police should be called in.
The reports of the Auditor General are really intended to allow for improvements in public and not merely to be used by politicians and the public to grind their political axes.
And if tomorrow, somebody were to suggest that we do away with the government or limit its role, there will be demonstrations and protest calling for a repeal of this suggestion. When it comes to the governments, we cannot live with them nor can we live without them.
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