Abuse of Power?

Just this morning I wrote in a post that the OBA seem adept at self-inflicted scandal – in fact, their turn in Government so far has largely lurched from one scandal to another, with Jet Gate being by far the most serious and still largely unresolved one. Facepalm

I even wrote that it seemed just a matter of time before the OBA stumbled into yet another self-inflicted scandal.

And as if to prove me right, that’s exactly what seems to now be emerging with controversy surrounding Minister Pamplin-Gordon, Minister of Public Works.

The controversy stems from Gonzalo, where the Minister’s private house was damaged.

According to the Minister’s account as it currently is on Bernews:

  • Within 24 hours (by Saturday evening) ‘tarps were put on her roof’ ‘by one of the teams that was helping island-wide’.  It’s not clear who those teams were, but it seems likely the reference is to Regiment crews.
  • Those initial tarps didn’t hold ‘and she eventually experienced flooding in her house’.  It should be noted that it didn’t rain until mid-week, around Wednesday.
  • She ‘mentioned it to her PS, and W&E came to assess the situation on Thursday evening’.
  • On the Friday ‘W&E put plywood over a section of the hole in her roof’.
  • On the Sunday more of the ceiling collapsed ‘leading to the Fire Service putting tarps over the roof again’.

Now, from my time in the Regiment, post-hurricane crews right after the passing of the hurricane are focused on clearing the roads.  They may provide tarp to people (and indeed, people could pick-up tarp from Warwick Camp, and later the Fire Station), but they generally only install tarps for vulnerable people – that is, senior citizens, the physically differently abled and people with young families.

Having said that, I’m personally not too fussed about a Regiment team being approached about getting help with an emergency tarp and helping out.  I can see that, and I don’t think there’s really any problem there.

Nor do I think there’s a problem too much with calling the fire service for assistance with the later further collapse of the ceiling.  I can see that constituting an emergency of sorts.

The issue that I think people have is with W&E crews being sent out, with public resources (both in terms of time/wages and material) to repair a private residence.

W&E crews are responsible for Government buildings.  Not private buildings.  In an emergency situation there is a case for them intervening on private property when there is a clear and present danger to public safety – such as a wall collapsing onto a public path/road.  That doesn’t seem to be the case here.

The Minister has stated that the services and materials she received regarding this were available to anyone.  I look forward to the news media investigating that aspect.  As I’ve stated above, W&E do not provide assistance for private residences in the manner they appear to have done here.

Is it a relatively minor thing in the grand scheme of things?

Well, that depends on what you’re comparing it to, but it certainly does raise the question of an abuse of power.

And following on from the UBP/OBA’s heavy focus, when in Opposition, on similar things under the PLP, including things that there’s absolutely no evidence of yet (cedar beams anyone?), including the Minister herself being extremely critical of former Premier Dr Brown, is it any surprise that people, whipped up by the UBP/OBA’s previous focus on such things, are particularly sensitive to new incidents?

Is it any surprise people will look at the OBA and this particular Minister as hypocrites?

Is it any surprise that others who have been affected by Fay and Gonzalo but without the access to power that the Minister has will look at this incident with anger rather than sympathy?

I can get that the Minister acted innocently and may not have even been aware of her abuse of power until the Opposition PLP brought it to the public’s attention.  However, that doesn’t alter the optics much.

It’s a small thing, and nothing on par with Jet Gate and related unresolved issues that have beset the OBA.

But it does chip away some more at the OBA’s political capital and claim to be doing politics differently.  And it does serve to further distract the Government, with the blame landing squarely in its own lap.

It’s yet another self-inflicted own-goal that they could have easily avoided.

This also further damages the image of the particular Minister as a competent Minister, following on as it does from:

It may be a small thing, but to many it will resonate a lot with a growing feeling that the OBA cannot be trusted and says one thing only to do the opposite.  This is a key problem for the OBA that they need to address – they need to restore public trust in them.  And right now that looks like a steep task, which silly and avoidable things like this is only making harder.




3 thoughts on “Abuse of Power?

  1. I guess it depends on whether she was at the house when W & E arrived. If she was, then she should have sent them away. If she knew of their attendance, then she should admit her error. If she didn’t – then she is clear.

    Mentioning it to her PS falls into “general conversation” – and no more unless the intent was clear that she expected her PS to use Govt Services.

    With regards to the PS, however, he/she should be disciplined unless he/she cleared the attendance of W & E with the Minister.

    Makes you wonder whether we have a civil service that is conditioned to respond in this way.

  2. If I’m not mistaken Mrs Gordon-Pamplin is not a person of massive personal wealth. So instead of re-creating the faux outrage here on your own site why don’t you go over and engage the people on Bernews who have said that she
    a) got nothing more than a regular ole’ civilian would have
    b) paid for the service and has receipts to prove it ?

    Hating on the OBA ,as tiring as it is , does not become you .

    Further more , how about a little investigation into the coincidental timing of the construction of Berkeley with its more than 100 % cost over-runs and the sudden construction of a certain house in Devonshire and many others around the island for PLP insiders ?
    Have you not spoken to a few truck drivers who had to deliver materials away from the school construction site to private locations who have been sworn to secrecy ?

    That’s REAL theft and political abuse but you’ll probably deflect as usual .

  3. Good morning,

    I think you’ve rather missed the point of the article in question.

    The focus was on how the OBA seems to continuously chip away at its political capital through situations like this which it could have easily avoided. This isn’t ‘hating on the OBA’ but pointing out a fundamental challenge of theirs. They suck at understanding optics, they come across as hypocritical and end up distracting from governing due to self-inflicted scandals like this one.

    Also, it’s not clear at all that the Minister received ‘nothing more than a regular ole’ civilian would have’.

    Regular civilians would have had to pick up the tarp themselves and install it themselves. The Regiment and the Fire Service may well assist with that, as I noted in the article, in emergency situations, but W&E workers work on public buildings, not private residences. It’s not proven anywhere that an exception has been made post-Gonzalo to deploy W&E workers to private residences.

    It is the use of W&E workers which is the problem here, not that civilians could get tarp assistance (which was being able to pick up tarps, not getting it installed).

    As to Pro-Active, that incident occurred years before this blog came into existence. I do not have the resources to do an investigation of that all these years later; I simply comment on presently occurring events. I do find it curious that you seem interested in deflecting on current political abuses by focusing on past ones though…

    Anyway, to make clear, the article was about the self-inflicted trust deficit the OBA has made for themselves and how they need to take steps to (a) reverse that; and (b) not add to it. It’s not ‘hating’ on the OBA or even the particular Minister, but simply a political observation of challenges the OBA faces.

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