The PSC we need
SHOULD we find comfort in the People’s Partnership Government’s decision to go ahead with the President’s nominations to the Police Service Commission (PSC)?
Last week, it was suggested that the persons nominated by His Excellency to sit on the PSC may not have been qualified and experienced in the disciplines as mandated in the Constitution.
Since then, the Leader of Government Business in the House has sought to assure us that he had spoken to the President, and, in the face of those concerns—all protocols observed—his government intended to proceed with the nominations.
It is not that I am particularly uncomfortable with the professionals that His Excellency nominated to go before the next sitting of the House. However, I will admit that recently I questioned his decision to remove four independent senators, all of whom, in my view, had brought the required quality, oversight, and perspectives to debates in the upper chamber.
The President had advanced the argument that there were no senators experienced in the fields of energy, and international finance on the Independent bench. I maintained that this argument was heavily flawed.
I noted that the experienced energy executive, Basharat Ali, resigned earlier this year after nine years as an independent senator, and at the time of His Excellency’s announcement Ali’s name was still listed on the Parliament’s website.
Also, I maintain that in appointing economist Dr Dhanayshar Mahabir as the senatorial expert in international finance, His Excellency had failed to acknowledge the fundamental difference between the disciplines of economics and finance.
In making the new nominations to the PSC, I fear his Excellency will be creating another argument that will be taken to the margin. Parliament, given its limited sitting time, will be forced into needless debate on whether two of His Excellency’s nominees are qualified and experienced in the fields of management and finance.
Parliamentary time would be better spent addressing the crises we face in crime, national security, and state corruption.
This is the period when the Police Social and Welfare Association expressed its concerns about the erosion of public confidence in the Police Service, the time when, after four months of investigation into the emailgate scandal, Deputy Police Commissioner Mervyn Richardson has thrown up his hands in obvious helplessness saying “I have done all I can.”
It is the time when strict parliamentary oversight is demanded over $1.4 billion that the Attorney General said last week would be given to the National Security Ministry—already allocated $6.2 billion in 2014 budget—to be used for “one of its intended” programmes.
This $1.4 billion represents the refund of this country’s downpayment from the Government’s cancellation of three Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPVs) in September 2010.
The British shipyard BAE eventually sold the vessels to Brazil, and granted the Government the refund, according to the British High Commission here, because the firm could not be paid twice for the same vessels.
Parliamentary time could be better spent debating a motion on the National Security Minister’s plan to invite a former New York police commissioner to do “a diagnostic test” to determine the cause of problems in the Police Service and to find a way forward.
This is after two experienced Canadian officers were forced out of office after just two years—but with million-dollar severance packages.
Previously, the state paid US criminologist Stephen Mastrofski some $80 million, and later another Canadian ex-military officer a large undisclosed sum, to do similar diagnostic exercises.
The PSC must be stacked, therefore, with expertise that can monitor meticulously the performance of the police executive.
So far, the acting Police Commissioner has had a series of extensions to his contract in spite of his sluggish performance in the Hyatt Concacaf bribery inquiry, and a four-month delay in charging former minister Collin Partap for a minor traffic offence.
More significant has been his tardiness in the area of white collar crime. There is no apparent campaign to address this country’s low rating on Transparency International’s Corruption Index.
Neither has there been any breakthrough in the issue of $680.8 million in “dirty money” transactions that were reported in the financial system in 2011.
Last week, the tough talking National Security Minister sounded off that no government contracts would be granted to known gang members, yet it was disclosed in Parliament that at least one gang leader was involved in renovations to a city police station.
It is obvious that strict parliamentary controls are needed, on one hand, and an effective PSC on the other, to surgically monitor the gushings of the new minister and the Police Service.
While the minister serves us his adolescent “gun talk”, we need comfort from a properly-constituted PSC.
• Keith Subero, a former Express news editor, has since followed a career in
communication and management