Published On: Sat, Sep 30th, 2023

Good grief!

By Hilbert Haar

What is the world coming to? What happened to the process of logical thinking? Those thoughts hit me like a hurricane when I read that the Council of Ministers asked the Integrity Chamber whether it is acceptable to let third parties pay for travel and accommodation expenses.

See related article: Integrity Chamber advises against payment of travel expenses by third parties

Good grief! I am not an expert but I could have answered that question in something like thirty seconds. Of course it is not acceptable to have others pay expenses for traveling on government business. This is obviously also the conclusion of the esteemed members of the Integrity Chamber.

My concern is that the Council of Ministers found it necessary to ask this question in the first place. I don’t know who came up with the idea to ask for this advice and that does not really matter because it was a request by the Council of Ministers. Apparently there was no one among the seven ministers who said: We don’t need this advice because I already know that we should travel on our own dime.

The Integrity Chamber’s role is not to ridicule the Council of Ministers and it did not do that either. Instead of saying (what any critical thinking human being might have said) Are you insane? the Chamber went for a more clinical approach by quoting article 41 of the Constitution.

That article contains the text of the oath ministers take when they take office. Simply put, they swear to uphold the constitution.

We all know that words are cheap and that politicians are the masters of making empty promises. So it cannot surprise anyone that our ministers are apparently unable to understand this part of article 41: “I promise not to take any promise or any gift from anybody.”

The Integrity Chamber provided a clarification too: “Anything of monetary value received from a third party can be considered a gift.”

Plane tickets and hotel rooms cost money so there is no doubt that they have monetary value. Article 41 is also very clear, but since everybody has fallen on hard times it is understandable that our government is also hunting for some financial relief. Understandable in this case; but it is not excusable.

If ministers or civil servants have to travel, and by extension have to stay at a hotel, the government has to foot the bill. Clear as a bell.

That the seven ministers who are supposed to lead our country needed an advice from the Integrity Chamber to arrive at this conclusion is baffling. It is a typical case of asking for the sake of asking, or as some see it: asking questions you already know the answer to.

The advice is there and it is clear. Now we’ll have to wait and see what the government is going to do with it.

Don’t hold your breath.


Related links:
Integrity Chamber advises against payment of travel expenses by third parties
Advice on Travel and Accommodation Paid by Third Parties