In light of a recent scolding issued by a public official, warning civil servants not to air ‘their dirty laundry’ in the media, we would like to remind everyone that that the very best place to air public administration’s dirty laundry is in the media.

Public servants work for all of us, and the public has both the right and the responsibility to oversee that work.

We’re not saying this spitefully. The Daily Post doesn’t indulge in witch-hunts or public shaming for the sake of it. But sunlight, as they say, is the best disinfectant.

The best way to handle issues of inefficiency, misconduct or waste is to bring it out where everyone can see it. This helps to ensure that it’s given the attention it deserves, and public officials can spend their time telling us how they’re fixing things, instead of scolding people and telling them to keep quiet.

It seems that every time someone reminds journalists to ‘report responsibly’, they really just want us to keep quiet.

Silence is seldom the right response. We understand that people are busy, and that our stories are often a distraction from what they’re working on. That’s unfortunate, but it’s just how the cookie crumbles.

People don’t come to us unless they consider something to be in the public interest. When we ask a question, the public is asking a question. If we get pushy about getting a response, it’s not out of arrogance or insubordination. It’s because the people deserve answers, and it’s our job—the government’s and the media’s—to answer them.

Currently, we’re waiting for a number of answers concerning the fiasco that’s unravelling up at Public Works. For transparency purposes, we list them here:

1) Whose decision was it to implement a stricter roadworthiness testing regime this year?

2) When was the decision made?

3) What steps were taken to inform the public of the change?

4) Was there an economic impact assessment made before the decision to make the change was implemented?

5) What information resources are available concerning roadworthiness testing? The Public Works Senior Foreman quoted a number of very specific criteria. Where can the public access these criteria?

6) Is it true that the Senior Foreman is empowered to determine a vehicle unroadworthy for “anything that will constitute a danger in future”? How can this judgment usefully be made? How far away does ‘the future’ extend?

We ask because it is exceedingly difficult to imagine how a minor dent in a vehicle body could “pose a danger to road users and life as a whole”.

7) The Senior Foreman is quoted as saying that ‘very soon’ we will have ‘machine or robots’ conducting the roadworthiness tests. Can you please elaborate on plans to automate this process?

8) Is the department or the ministry in contact with the various Land Transport bodies concerning the possibility of collective action in the face of these newly stringent inspection criteria? What is the state of the dialogue as of now?

These are all items of some concern, and we know that getting straightforward answers to these questions will help clear the air and to set expectations about how the next two months will unfold.

Currently, confusion abounds, because people don’t have a clear idea of the steps that will be necessary in order to renew their vehicle(s) for the coming year. For fleet owners and commercial transport operators, these concerns have significant financial implications.

We look forward to doing our part to furthering public understanding on this important topic—and on many others.

Dan McGarry

Media Director

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