The Basis of Good Governance

article published in The Times on Saturday 16 February 2008
by Carmel Cacopardo 
Being green means being transparent and ensuring full accountability. Not just of the political process. Not just relative to environmental issues. It is a basic principle enshrined in the Charter of the Global Greens approved in Canberra in 2001. It is also a basic principle in the Manifesto for a Coalition issued by Alternattiva Demokratika – the Green party in Malta for the March 8 general election.

Transparency is a basic requirement for good governance. It is not a familiar word in the Gonzi Administration dictionary accept during election time. In fact, this government has only recently considered it necessary to put pen to paper and propose a Freedom of Information Act. Some, like yours truly, have been harping on the issue since the mid-1990s, well before Lawrence Gonzi considered it necessary to return to national politics.

Transparency and accountability are inseparable twins. Accountability is, in fact, non-existent or severely diluted in the absence of transparency.

Within this context, the financing of political parties is fundamental in ensuring transparency of the political process. AD has been harping on the issue for ages, yet the only reactions from the other parties are the occasional grunt. A coalition government will, within the next few weeks, ensure that this issue is tackled. The construction industry has ensured its unsustainable existence at the expense of our environment on the basis of bankrolling the political system. It is no wonder that the PN and the MLP never act decisively on all issues that affect this industry. Transparency is the right of the public to know what is being carried out on its behalf. Its objective is not curiosity. At times it is, unfortunately, a reactive measure when, in reality, it should be a proactive requirement of any democracy.

In a democratic environment transparency means active disclosure of information, irrespective of whether one asks or not.

The public wants to know why and how decisions are taken. It needs to be convinced as to who is financing the political process and thereby reach conclusions as to the real motivation behind particular decisions.

All of us active in politics would do well to heed the 10 rules of transparency:

What’s done in private is eventually public.
What’s acceptable today probably won’t be tomorrow.
If it looks bad today, tomorrow it will look worse.
Today’s penalties will be worse tomorrow.
Each denial generates more pressure to disclose.
With each denial, enemies and detractors multiply.
With each denial, more friends desert you.
The more denials, the more severe the punishment.
Covering up is more damaging than the original sin.
Nothing is forgotten and seldom forgiven.
Further comments are unnecessary!

Mr Cacopardo, an architect by profession, is the spokesman on sustainable development of Alternattiva Demokratika – the Green party in Malta – and will be contesting the March 8 election on a Green ticket on the third and 11th electoral districts.

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