Overhauling Our Governance System
The ancestors of the modern Cabinet system were, in reality as well as constitutional theory, creatures of the monarch, a monarch who appointed ministers, and arranged meetings of his or her government. ‘Cabinet’ was, in effect, a meeting of the monarch’s individual ministers. The monarch was the Prime Minister of the era (and, in effect, Cabinet Secretary also). As the eighteenth century went on, the politicians sought to wrest control, especially from the Hanoverian kings, and collective action was a prerequisite for this development: Collective Responsibility of Ministers
The Westminster system the government of Barbados adopted from England has been attracting strident critique from segments of the public including the BU community. In a nutshell, we have become saddled by a system of government which is not working as originally designed. Successive Barbados governments have neglected to frontally address the problem by instituting changes to make the system relevant to Barbados way of life .
Many examples are a matter of pubic record to expose our ineffectual system of government.
Successive governments have refused to take corrective steps to address matters raised in Auditor General reports. The majority of state agencies (if not all) do not have up to date audited financial statements. If the purpose of audited financials is “to provide independent assurance that management has, in its financial statements, presented a “true and fair” view of a company’s financial performance and position”, it leaves the public to speculate about the integrity of government’s finances. Imagine if false assumptions are being made about the state of financial health of the NIS fund.
There was the incident with Speaker of the House Michael Carrington who was ordered by the High Court of Barbados to disburse funds owed to a 70 year old client. Although Prime Minister Freundel Stuart defended the Speaker and is quoted as saying Carrington committed no crime, it is patently obvious -even to the ignorant- that on ethically grounds, Carrington committed a wrong and should have resigned based on accepted conventions practiced under the Westminster system.
The final critique of the system of government practiced by Barbados is what is referred to as collective ministerial responsibility. During the Stuart administration the public has had to endure several examples of two ministers -Inniss and Estwick- being openly critical of public policy. Of interest is the fact both Estwick and Inniss from the government side are reported to be financially self sufficient.
Cursory research supports the position that collective cabinet responsibility is based on convention and not statute. If Barbados governments fully subscribe to the Westminster system why do we cherrypick or ignore conventions fuelled by political expediency? If we do not subscribe fully to the Westminster system then what is the Barbados equivalent. Should we be discussing the Ministerial Code? What about the workings of political parties?
Unfortunately Barbadians continue to allow national conversations to be led by the political class –BLP and DLP.