We need to fix the system, not subvert it to suit our friends


Originally published in @wired868 on Monday 11 April 2022

The perception that if you are within the inner circle of the government, you can get anything you want was solidified in my mind with the recent announcement by the Prime Minister.

Clarence Rambharat, former agriculture, lands, and fisheries minister, we were told, is coming back into government and will take up a position in the yet-to-be-created Single Point Land Management Authority (SPMA) and his terms and conditions of employment will be determined by the Chief Personnel Officer (CPO).

Photo: Clarence Rambharat on the campaign trail in the lead-up to the 2020 general elections.
(via PNM)

In other words, the Prime Minister is seeking Cabinet’s support in forming a company while simultaneously instructing the CPO to determine the terms and conditions of employment of his nominee for the leadership role. In one announcement, we have thrown out any idea that there is a process to form a company and that the hiring procedure is fair and transparent and allows all suitably qualified citizens to access the opportunity.

In the normal course of things, forming a company, state enterprise or entity requires a clear articulation of the problem to be solved or the service to be offered followed by a careful definition of the core values and the mission of the organisation, development of the job description of the leaders before engaging the hiring process.

If the Prime Minister publicly throws all the rules of engagement out of the window, what are we to expect of the public servant when his friend asks a favour? What will motivate a junior person to feel a commitment to following the rules?

Successful organisations seek to recruit persons who can advance the mission of the organisation and often use a transparent process to invite persons who are inspired to help solve the problem. The failure of the SPMA is almost written on the cards because of the way the company was introduced to the public.

Photo: Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley.
(Office of the Prime Minister)

The SPMA is envisioned as solving a critical problem where state lands often end up being occupied without authorisation by persons who are bold and savvy enough to outfox the system. The entity is intended to eliminate corruption associated with the management of state lands.

A reasonable person cannot deny the need for regularisation and management of what happens with state lands. And given the historical inequity in the distribution of state lands, this issue must be managed transparently.

How will the SPMA differ in its role and responsibilities from the Land Management Division?

According to the Ministry of Agriculture’s website:

“The Office of the Commissioner of State Lands (COSL) is charged with the overall management, distribution, and allocation of all State Lands, which includes all shoreline below the high water mark and the seabed within the waters of Trinidad and Tobago.”

Photo: Former Minister of Agriculture, Land, and Fisheries Clarence Rambharat.
(Copyright Office of the Parliament 2021)

If this is not working and you have found corrupt practices, we should be investing time and effort in fixing the system, not creating another bureaucratic structure. The message of repair can be deeply fulfilling and will necessitate hard work and dedication.

Instead of engaging in the hard work, our government has once again thrown up its hands and looked for a shining new entity in the hope that it will solve the problem.

We have not yet learned that workarounds have not worked and that, to regain the trust that people outside of the inner circle will be considered, what is needed is deep systemic change.

One thought on “We need to fix the system, not subvert it to suit our friends

  1. Well put, Dennise. Whenever there is a problem to be solved, the PNM government first asks how they can use the opportunity to benefit their family and cronies. This means the entire episode of Rambharat resigning and returning to take up a yet-to-be-created post is a farce to help their PNM financiers.

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