No to veils of secrecy

02 April 2019 | Columns

Transparency is one of the basic principles of good governance and there is no doubt that fostering a culture of being open and accountable deepens our hard-won democracy.

Our country is going through a critical phase at the moment, which was for many years worsened by the irresponsible and unsustainable management of the fiscus and economy.

We are not out of the austerity tunnel yet, as economic challenges persist to this day. Over the last couple of years', government was left with no option other than to impose radical budget cuts, in an attempt to rein in its spending, while raising domestic revenue.

Although the spending cuts might have been seen as impressive by some quarters, there were many economic consequences, leading to job losses and high levels of inequality.

You will recall that we have in the past implored government to open up platforms and have honest discussions about the status of the economy. It was therefore shocking when the executive director of the ministry of defence, Peter Vilho, chose a combative response, which utterly smacks of arrogance, when he was pressed to account for the billions pumped into the defence ministry over the years.

Questions have always been asked about whether the billions spent on defence are justified, given other pressing priorities that the nation is grappling with. This big-spending trend on defence can longer continue unabated, especially when it is not in the public interest. Obviously, some allocations cannot be divulged, owing to national security interests.

However, there must be a transparent process, which includes making actual spending readily available to the public. Taxpayers should not be taken for a ride all the time.

Like in any democracy, ultimately government is accountable to the citizens of the country, and must maintain openness and accountability all the time, especially when it involves taxpayers' money. Veils of secrecy must continue to be torn asunder.