I was recently invited to join a Facebook (FB) group called Social Accountability and Education in Barbados. The purpose of the group is to educate the public about matters of concern to all of us and to ensure that Government is accountable for the decisions that it makes, which may have significant impact on the nation.
I am very glad that this group has been created and I hope it will be supported by the various stakeholders in the country. By that, I mean organizations like the Chamber of Commerce, Barbados International Business Association, the Private Sector Association, BHTA etc. and, of course, citizens like you and me.
I think it is way past time for such a group but I believe in “better late than never”. The country is in a serious condition, to say the least, and it is because we are ignorant about many things and have not demanded accountability from the Government for some of the questionable decisions they have made. In fact, we need to create a forum where we, as a people, can participate in decisions that affect us rather than leave it to 30 people, who are generally no brighter than us, to make decisions without our input.
So, the group will be hosting Facebook Live events and inviting the FB public to ask questions of experts who will share on various topics, but will also invite participants to offer solutions to some of the issues facing the country. I think a great place to start is with educating the public which, to me, means bringing information that may be hidden to light, as well as demystifying and clarifying the terminology that is sometimes used to keep us in the dark.
One of the pieces of information that I want to highlight, especially with elections lurking around the corner, is an extract from the DLP’s 2008 Manifesto. You may be wondering why I’m going back so far. It is because there are promises in the 2008 Manifesto that have not been fulfilled as yet. Here are two examples:
“Under a DLP government, the people will be kept informed of what the government is doing on their behalf through:
• Regular press briefings following meetings of the Cabinet of Barbados
• Press briefings by Ministries/Departments to inform Barbadians of major developments and changes
• The publication of details of agreements and contracts involving the government and its agencies
• Formal Ministerial statements at regular intervals on the progress of ongoing programmes and projects
• A revision of and adherence to the rules regarding Parliamentary questions
• A policy of formal reporting by parliamentarians to constituents on stewardship and issues affecting the constituencies.”
“Immediately introduce integrity legislation requiring
• a declaration of assets by public officials
• a Code of Conduct for Ministers
• a new Freedom of Information law
• amendments to the Defamation laws and
• new constitutional provisions to rationalize the powers of the Prime Minister.”
(Extract from the DLP’s 2008 Manifesto)
The promise to “immediately introduce integrity legislation” has never materialized. You would think that the Opposition would be all over that, making a lot of noise and insisting that the Government makes good on that promise unless, of course, they have a good reason not to want Integrity legislation in place either.
How about this one? “The publication of details of agreements and contracts involving the government and its agencies”. Does anyone remember Cahill or do we have short memories? The only reason the public knew about the details of the agreements was because some documents fell off the back of a truck.
These are two examples of the kind of information that needs to be brought to the public’s attention and we need to be able to challenge Government to provide reasonable answers as to why the proposed initiatives have not been actioned. After all, these things don’t need money so they can hardly claim that they were not implemented because of the poor economic conditions in the country.
As I said last week, this is a zero tolerance year and I hope that I’m not the only one who has reached my limit. Whether it is with poor service or lack of transparency and accountability, we all have the right to expect better and if we do not get it, to choose other options.
(Donna Every is an author, international speaker and trainer. She is also the Barbados Facilitator for the InfoDev WINC Acceleration Programme and served as the Barbados Ambassador for Women’s Entrepreneurship Day (2014 – 2016). Contact her at )email@example.com