Recently in the UK a scandal emerged over culture minister Maria Miller’s misuse of public funds. Miller was accused of using public monies to fund the building of a house for her parents. The allegations were investigated and Miller was cleared of any wrongdoing regarding the house, but was told to repay £5,800 (approx TT$580,000) in expenses that she wrongly claimed.
Though the investigation was not conducted entirely without allegations of improper political procedure, the matter was expediently dealt with by the UK government in an open and transparent manner. The UK public were assured of what was being done, when it was being done, and how the situation was being addressed. Miller, having been cleared of all initial allegations, then chose to resign as culture minister so as not to call into question the integrity of the ruling party.
In a statement made in the wake of her resignation, Miller said “...it has become clear to me over the last few days that this has become an enormous distraction, and it’s not right that I’m detracting from the incredible achievements of this government”. Many of her colleagues within David Cameron’s administration openly stated that her resignation was not required by parliament, and her decision shows a genuine interest in not diminishing the efforts of the government to build trust and act with integrity.
Such displays of selflessness in light of political controversy are not uncommon in the UK and provide an example for governments all over the globe. Though far from being a perfect political system, such conventions serve as a reminder that politicians are civil servants, and as such their greatest responsibility lies with the people they serve.
As members of an active democracy, we must remind ourselves that accountability begins with us; we are responsible for holding those we elect to account for behaviour that is not in the best interest of the country, and demanding transparency in political procedure, in particular with regard to the use and misuse of public funds. I urge the people of T&T to not be deceived by promises of accountability. We should not be satisfied until such promises are followed up by transparent and verifiable acts. It is time we as a nation build the trust with the government and people as one.