Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Exposed: Rights Advocacy A Gateway To Lavish Lifestyles

This was the rather lurid headline for a story about alleged financial irregularities at the CPA.

There are questions of governance at hand but we need to understand what is of legitimate public interest and what is not. The private lives of individuals, however debauched, are of no interest to the public at large unless it happens to involve public property, funds or resources.

Let us try to understand the issues at hand. There is an allegation that there are incorrect or wrongful expense claims being made.

How do we define what is incorrect or wrongful? If this were a person holding public office it would be covered under the Financial Regulations and the Administrative Regulations.

As a privately funded institute it would be governed by whatever internal policies are applicable, which we do not have access to. The person making the allegations claims that it is against policy, but we have no way of knowing what the policy is and are therefore not in any position to judge.

Dinner at a restaurant sounds like good fun, but it may be legitimate if the people entertained were those falling within the applicable rules (if any) at CPA.

This brings me to the crux of the problem: there is an allegation of financial irregularity but since this institute takes no public money, is of no interest to the ordinary citizen; apart from perhaps providing some cheap and tawdry entertainment. This is a matter for the donors and staff of the institute to worry about. It is not that governance is unimportant, it is just that this matter is not of any public interest.

People may disagree with work of CPA, the causes they advocate or the message they give. These need to be judged on their own merits, although I admit that an organisation that acquires a reputation for being misgoverned may find its public legitimacy eroded.

If it were PUBLIC money, TAXPAYERS money, THEN there is legitimate public interest in ensuring that there is no abuse. Public servants and bodies are funded by taxpayers, which is why the rules they are governed by are public. It would be possible to determine what types of spending were permitted and the procedures to be followed in the case of a public body and therefore make some informed judgement about the basic case being made. If it is our money it is in our interest to find out how it is spent and if that spending is to our benefit.

This is why matters of misgovernance and corruption in public bodies by public officials must be pursued relentlessly. When it concerns private money and individuals it is only in the interest of those involved to investigate. It's not our money so who cares?

Instead of looking at the real issues, I'm afraid all that is happening here is some rather cheap thrills, people oohing and ahhing over size of the bill and the choice of courses.

I think there are some much bigger issues that we have to worry about.

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