It’s not the interest that is lacking
Tuesday 15th January 2013, 2:30PM GMT.
WHEN the Policy Council’s own consultant was preparing a discussion paper to facilitate a States disclosure strategy ahead of any freedom of information legislation, she said that a key benefit of transparency was shining a spotlight into the workings of government.
Yet when the chief minister was asked to do just that, by giving more details on how the financial transformation programme was to be achieved, he said it would be inappropriate.
The council consultant also said: ‘Information should not be kept secret because its disclosure would be embarrassing.’
She could have added, ‘or inconvenient’, but the point was well made – and ignored by a Policy Council that appears to place little premium on transparency or accountability.
Its latest decision is to reject the principle of regular surgeries where ministers would be available to take questions from the public because it had little enthusiasm for the suggestion.
There is a pattern here, for the previous chief minister made the same suggestion and his colleagues of the day also turned it down.
The current chief minister also said there would be no interest in the surgeries. But he is wrong.
Islanders would welcome the ability to question individual ministers. They could for instance ask the head of Treasury and Resources what his real intentions are for mortgage tax relief or what’s happening in the missing £2.6m. fraud case.
Public Services could be asked how much the waste ‘strategy’ is going to cost individual householders and why the roads are in such a mess.
Home might expect some lively questions about merging police and the Guernsey Border Agency and, as a result of high level comments in Jersey last week, about a joint CI police force.
In short, there is every reason for suggesting that each minister in turn should face islanders to answer questions on what they are doing to discharge their duties and promote the effective and efficient use of public funds.
But ministers and their advisers already know that. They also know that there would be a good and knowledgeable audience there to quiz them.
Which is precisely why they do not want it to happen.
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