Unexplained Wealth (UW) is a sensitive subject, but a silent killer. When nothing is said or done about it, termites in the system flourish.
Ad hoc cases of it have been tackled by the legal system and the media on a case by case basis in recent years.
The big one was the 14 former MPs cases and the latest re: EDF funds. Another case is brewing within one of our flagship state-owned enterprises (SOEs) and the mess will hit the fan very soon.
Intriguingly, this particular case shamefully includes at least one resident expatriate. I received the following email from a friend in late April: ‘mifala story wetem Minister……and his[he] is very upset about the level
of corruption in the public service.
Ol public servants oli steal tumas.’ Pretty blunt statement, which might either be an unfair exaggeration or possibly an understatement of reality.
Last week the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) summoned various Heads of Government agencies to verify financial reports of those respective agencies. A particularly sticky one is the ‘patient care fund’ administered by the VCH.
It is a known fact that clients do pay the Vt500 consultation fee directly to the doctor on duty, with particular reference to the Emergency unit.
Receipts are not provided. Whether the doctor on duty lodges the payment at the cashier or not is anybody’s guess.
PAC only scrutinizes the reports provided by agency Heads within the confines of reports made available to it.
But PAC does not deal with the issue of UW generally and broadly.
Possibly no Government agency in the country is incharge of pursuing UW as an issue. People just react to it when a case arises.
You might ask, but what is UW? The Corruption and Crime Commission (CCC) of Western Australia refers to UW as a situation where ‘…a person has unexplained wealth if the value of their wealth is greater than the value of their lawfully acquired wealth’ (ref: https://www.ccc.wa.gov.au/
The United Kingdom has commenced a major clampdown on UW since
early 2018 by introducing Unexplained Wealth Orders (UWO).
One website (ref: https:// www.kingsleynapley.co.uk/ insights/blogs/criminal-lawblog/ unexplained-wealthorders- can-you-prove-thelegitimate-
provenance-of-allof- your-significant-assets) that discusses the issue of UW poses this question, ‘can you prove the legitimate provenance of all of your significant assets?
That’s the question possibly PAC or relevant agencies of the Government should set out to addressing beyond those annual PAC sumons.
Can you, as an individual Agency Head or otherwise, prove the legitim ate
provenance of all of your significant assets? What you consider to be ‘personal’ assets?
Two points need to be highlighted here. One, ‘lawfully acquired wealth’,
and two, ‘significant assets’. Without having to delve into boringly long definitions, lawfully acquired wealth would normally refer to your fortnightly or monthly salary, sale of a piece of your legally acquired land, inheritance
from your parents, possibly a bank loan, etc., and ‘significant assets’ would cover such things as a house, vehicle, boat, or even money in your bank account.
Assets that carry a lot of financial worth. Apply the above two working definitions to the case of public servants (to coincide with the email referred to earlier between one of our senior Ministers and the colleague) then the discussion becomes very interesting.
Prior to the Government Remuneration Tribunal (GRT) increasing staff salaries in early 2017, certain civil servants had already built themselves interestingly big houses, owned very expensive equipment, fancy vehicles
worth several million vatus, property (possibly more than one), and so forth. Civil Servant salary levels are not secret information.
Anybody working in Government would know.
But when you look at the assets some have cinsistently amassed, you get to wonder how and where on earth they got all the money to invest in
When you know that a certain officer is paid so much in monthly salaries, and has to pay rent (if not living in government housing), school fees, transportation, power bills, water bills, etc., and yet owns assets over and above his/her financial capability, one would normally raise the yellow flag.
So many of these yellow flags should have already been raised by relevant government agencies by now.
These investments, if not lawfully acquired, are unlawfully obtained from
sources only they perfectly know about.
Possibly false overtime claims (some of which I have dealt with myself when I was DG), commissions out of Government contracts, bribery from contractors who have struck deals with them over preferential projects, sales of illegal drugs, etc.
Corruption is normally attributed to politicians.
They are easy scapegoats for this. But we seldom refer to corruption within the civil service.
We have only 52 members of parliament compared to over 4,000 civil servants.
For argument’s sake, lets say corruption only affects around 5% of our parliamentarians.
That equates to around 3 corrupt MPs.
Apply the same formula to about 4,000 civil servants and you get a shocking 200 corrupt civil servants ‘cutting copra’ (according to our popular
slang) on the back of the Government.
Let’s say the level of corruption among politicians is a bit higher, at 10%.
That would equate to 5 corrupt politicians and a shocking 400 corrupt civil
Using the analogy of ‘termites’ that bore into wood and destroy it, the tree called ‘Government’ might appear green on the outside, but deep inside it is rotting away at the actions of its hosts – those termites.
And the more silence there is in the system, the more these termites flourish at the expense of services to the people.