Gray: Local government practitioners should not confuse their roles with that of officials elected to Parliament
By Cleopatra Murphy
Freeport News Reporter
Local government practitioners should not confuse their roles with that of officials elected to Parliament, Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Local Government V. Alfred Gray advised.
"They are totally different and those of you who don't know it, let's not leave here until we know it because that is the bedrock of confusion and that seems to have bred more contempt than anything that I have witnessed in local government since I became minister - the roles as they relate to the local government councilors and the Parliamentary representatives and there is no need for the confusion," he said.
Gray met with local government councilors and administrators at the C.A. Smith Complex while on Grand Bahama yesterday.
Gray noted that some elected councilors have begun to conduct themselves as "little prime minister, but when you feel you are above the people you represent, you set yourself up to fail because people do not care what you know until they know that you care."
He noted that the local government councilors have a serious role to play.
Gray said local government was never intended as an "end all" to Bahamians and the councils depend on what they receive from the central government.
Gray cautioned the councils to be careful with the public purse, as the central government is keeping an eye on what they do and advised that the councils afford the necessary respect to the administrators.
"I've discovered that some councilors believe that they are independent men and women of the administrator for their districts and they seldom get along except for when payday comes . . ." he said.
Gray noted that the administrator is secretary to the council and not in a clerical sense. He added that the buck stops with the administrator as councilors must account to the central government for what they do financially through the administrator.
"I fully expect that the administrators who work on this island and with the councilors, that you will not sign a voucher if you have not seen and if you have not been able to verify that what you are paying for has been done or has been done in accordance with the contractual arrangements between the council and the contractor," he said.
Gray said as administrators and councilors serve the public, they must remember the words commitment, integrity, transparency, accountability and communication.
He noted that some councilors ran for posts because they were available and seldom attend meetings, displaying they are not committed.
He added that elected officials must display integrity to survive.
"Integrity to me is your character. Your reputation is what people think about you and that could change every day. It depends on what color clothes you wear, what company you keep, your reputation is just what people think about you, but you know something?
That's not that important because if you know who you are, it doesn't matter so much what people think. It's what you know and your character ... is who you are," he said.
Gray said if nobody can bribe you, that's where integrity comes into play.
"Don't let anybody define you because you define yourself by what you do and how you do it because the character is that inner person that you are.
"Don't let anybody define your character. You do that for yourself and make sure that it remains intact," Gray said.
He noted that councilors must always be transparent in their practices.
"Transparency is simply doing what you do on the table and it is subject to scrutiny and no matter who looks at, it will be found that it was done in accordance with the rules," Gray said.
He added that he is proud that although he has made errors of judgment in his personal life, he has an impeachable record serving the public because he never did anything under the table.
"My mother told me it's better to stand on your feet for one day than to crawl on your belly for the rest of you life. Never want it. Never do it. Don't ever let your character be compromised by dollars," Gray said.
He advised councilors to be wary when people approach them about doing something under the table because they can end up in problems.
"Serve with integrity and transparency and that will never come to you," he said.
He added that councilors are accountable to the government for what they do.
"Whatever you do in the financial scheme of things, somebody will look at it somewhere, sometime and while you have a budget to work with, you must use your good judgment and only do those things with the money you are given, and ensure it benefits the Bahamian people and or the people you serve," Gray said.
He noted that he talks before he acts, because he does not refuse to act.
"I will not refuse to act and I am not afraid to act, but my duty is to tell you when you spend the public's money without authority, no matter how you think about it. If there is no authority you will be asked to pay it back personally," Gray said.
He added that communication is important between the chief councilor and councilors.
"The chief councilor has no business to make decisions without his councilors being present unless it is an emergency decision," Gray said.
He added that in those situations, councilors are to inform the council as soon as possible and have them verify it.
Gray said he would not tell councilors what to do with their funds, but they must manage it well.
"As long as you do what you are supposed to do, you are not going to hear from me like that," he said.
Gray noted that local government was never intended to be political and councilors must not be political in their administration.
"You are not politicians. You were elected by your local people, your local community to look after their interests," he said.
© 2012 The Freeport News