a credible probe will do
JSC on which political bias is entrenched
is quite worthless.
JSC must have power to sum-mon witnesses, documents.
Independents must hold trump card on JSC.
notion put forward that the Government has a responsibility
to support Udecott and any of the other special purpose
state enterprises is fine for propaganda effect and natural
expectation from a Government which created and monitors
However, such an assertion, no matter its repetition, does
not address the need for an independent and clinical probe
into Udecott by experts who can pick up the scent of the
alleged corrupt activity.
Therefore, a regularly established joint select committee
on which political bias is entrenched is quite worthless.
The Government members, who have all sworn there is nothing
untoward to be found in the activities of Udecott, and with
their political necks depending on it, will see and hear
On the other side, the Opposition MPs on a JSC will see
a pay-off behind every Udecott project and expenditure of
The Independent senator who is to chair the committee will
find himself or herself attempting to part political wars
at every turn; more than likely a stalemate will emerge
out of the inquiry.
Could a possibility for advance emerge from the seemingly
intractable positions adopted by the Government and the
Opposition to allow this vital political process of accounting
for the spending of the national patrimony, and to determine
the financial probity or otherwise of Governments
mechanism, the special purpose state enterprises? Perhaps.
The United National Congress has admirably exerted pressure
on Prime Minister Patrick Manning. He must now outline terms
of reference of the JSC to persuade the Opposition and the
nation that his Government is serious about investigating
Udecott, notwithstanding his own position that all is well.
The Government must therefore agree to have Parliament give
power to the JSC to summon witnesses and documents; to recruit
the services of forensic accountants; to contract legal
experts with particular competence to decipher illegal corporate
activities in procurement and other such matters; to receive
guidance from people with expertise and knowledge of the
construction industry; and an open hand to find whatever
expertise and experience necessary to determine if Udecott
has been flouting the countrys laws.
All of the above is possible in the Standing Orders which
govern the operations of select committees of Parliament.
The fact of the evidence being given in public and that
which may be found by the forensic accountants and legal
experts, also released in the public domain utilising parliamentary
privilege, will not allow for any attempts at cover-up by
any of the sides. And here the population, including individuals
and institutions, must monitor the public proceedings to
raise the alarm bell if justified.
Further, the terms of reference to be agreed to by the Parliament
must include the power of the JSC to report to the Parliament.
And if there is a hint of wrong-doing, the JSC must have
the power to instantly forward the report to the Director
of Public Prosecution for action.
In order to prevent either side from attempting to stymie
the functioning of the committee, there should be not be
a requirement for a quorum for the committee to sit and
progress with the inquiry. Therefore neither side could
attempt to frustrate the work of the committee by absenting
itself; it will do so at the risk of not having an opportunity
to advance and/or defend its case.
It is expected that the Commissioner of Police, too, will
appreciate that he has a public responsibility to have a
team of specially equipped officers keep a watching brief
on the proceedings of the JSC to determine whether there
is evidence to be further investigated.
Even so, to assuage the strong public call for an open commission
of enquiry where testimony and evidence are given, the Parliament
must also give the power to the JSC to call into being such
a commission. This of course means that the Government,
the Prime Minister, must agree to accept such a recommendation
from the JSC.
And this brings us to the question of the balance of the
JSC. There should be an uneven number with Independents
holding the trump card, notwithstanding whatever the tradition
of having the Government hold the majority. This is a special
circumstance and the Government cannot be allowed to investigate
itself, that is if the findings are to have credibility.
Empowering the JSC in a manner as suggested above is really
the most viable option open to the Government if it is to
survive the negative political fallout of attempting to
engage a watered-down inquiry.
Any inquiry that simply ignores the position taken by the
UNC and the very loud chorus of public opinion for a probing,
vigorous investigation must attract significant political
If the Government were to seek to sweep past the protest
of the Opposition, a protest which has deep resonance in
the body politic, and move to pack the JSC with Independent
senators, with the UNC refusing to participate in the process,
it will pay the political price.
The Independents themselves will have to be individually,
politically wise and circumspect in arriving at their positions
to participate or not in the JSC. Any easy acceptance of
a government fiat will destroy their personal credibility
and question the independence of the Presidents men
The Government has much more riding on this one than the
Opposition. If it is found that Udecott has been infested
with corrupt activity of one kind or the other, and if by
extension it is found that the reporting mechanisms are
inadequate to monitor the companys expenditure of
billions of dollars, that could cost Prime Minister Manning
and his Government quite a price as they have staked their
political integrity and competence on this one.
If on the other hand a probing and credible inquiry reveals
Udecott and its operations to be like Caesars wife,
above suspicion, it would certainly give a shot in the arm
to Prime Minister Manning, his Government and their methods
Only such an inquiry, structured in the manner suggested
or any other that allows for transparency and deep probing,
and one accepted by the Opposition and the national community,
would be acceptable.
This is the reality and Prime Minister Manning, his ministers
and the Udecott board, inclusive of the brawlers, the velvety
smooth and the cunning, must realise that falling over each
other to profess the integrity of the company with evangelist-like
testimonials mean nothing.
The population will only be convinced by a quality and credible
probe into Udecott and if as has been said so often, the
Government and Udecott have nothing to hide, then let the