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BLP COLUMN: Constituency councils adrift

BEA DOTTIN, [email protected]

BLP COLUMN: Constituency councils adrift

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BLP legacy: launched EduTech project to make the nation’s schoolchildren and teachers computer literate; and undertook reform of the Barbados Constitution through a Constitution Review Commission headed by Sir Henry Forde.
Normally when Barbadians think of organized football tournaments, bodies like the Barbados Football Association (BFA) and the National Sports Council (NSC) readily spring to mind.
That is why the public, already unconvinced of the usefulness of Constituency Councils, now believe that Government’s linking them to a football tournament reflects a desperate attempt by the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) to justify their continued existence.
Launched some two years ago with great fanfare and at considerable public expense, the councils, according to the DLP’s 2008 manifesto, were to be state-funded to “execute community enhancement and development projects”.
Are Barbadians expected to accept that at a time when the councils are being reappointed for another two years at a cost of further millions of dollars a year, the best and most that can be expected from them, as far as “community enhancement and development” is concerned, is the running of a football tournament across their 30 constituency boundaries?
And this comes after major public disappointment in their first two years, which were highlighted by such activities as walk-throughs, distribution of fruit baskets, seeking out “lost” wells, checking on drainage and lots overgrown with bush.
The Barbados Labour Party (BLP) does not deny that these things matter in people’s lives, but they certainly do not demonstrate the innovation, inspiration and upliftment of communities promised in such lofty and noble terms as “enhancement and development”.
This letdown by the councils and the DLP is made all the more acute by the realization that so far nothing has been done that has not in the past been done by professionally run Government agencies, non-governmental agencies (NGOs) and various other voluntary groups.
Why then not let the David Thompson Memorial Community Football Classic tournament be run by a combination of the tried and tested BFA and NSC, and even the Community Development Department – the latter, ironically enough, sharing the same ministry as the councils ?
Unless the DLP felt that to do so would be to rob itself of the chance to grab some of its urgently needed political capital and goodwill that has seemingly gone to the very popular LIME competition and by association, its head organizer Miss Mia Mottley who is linked in the public’s mind to the BLP.
Except that the LIME tournament is a privately driven and funded initiative, while the one being undertaken through the councils is at a reported direct cost to the ministry of some $335 710 and several thousands more through any support from agencies like the NSC. At a time when Government is forced to borrow some $40 million per month to pay ordinary public servants, it is unconscionable to take scarce public funds to finance an apparent DLP political back raise.  
Rather than duplicate, the ministry should immediately implement the 2010 Auditor General’s Report (Page 53) recommendation that it “needs to ensure that adequate accounting records are maintained by the councils and that annual financial statements are prepared and presented for audit in accordance with Section 9 of the Constituency Councils Act, 2009-9”.