Buyers, when buying, love simple solutions. Sellers, when selling, are motivated oppositely because arcane arrangements can be rewarding.
If you construct a tiny shed, the cost is small and ascertainable. Build an elaborate structure and cost is less easily determined, but much higher. Which is OK, if that’s what you need.
In everyday life, we make financial decisions that focus on self-interest. The results are usually acceptable. But when various parties to a project gain by escalating its size and complexity, who manages the limits?
Who says no, when no needs to be said?
If politicians or bureaucrats hide financial details of major agreements—as governments routinely do—it may be parties to the contracts who benefit, not the public. Without restraint and independent oversight, initial budgets will expand even as we hear self-serving announcements about projects being on-time, on-budget.
Governments control the flow of information and feel little obligation for thorough public disclosures. Accountability to taxpayers ranks behind political expediency. This subject should attract focused attention of pundits employed by corporate media. In BC, inquiry is typically left to a diligent freelancer like Bob Mackin.
The publisher of theBreaker.news discussed this in a 2018 article:
So it was amusing to read ex-Christy Clark underling Maclean Kay in the Times Colonist being an apologist for both the current and former premiers, under the headline “Absolute transparency isn’t feasible in government” (March 1).
Absolutely, it is feasible.
Kay and the B.C. Liberals didn’t want it. They chose to manipulate the media and undermine the public’s right to know, because they believed that was the path to power.
Transactions worth tens of billions—LNG incentives, BC Hydro IPP commitments and the utility’s megaprojects, for example—are negotiated behind closed doors between business associates who can change jobs and flip sides, from buyer to seller.
Public officials routinely deny access to information in their records using broad exclusions allowed by legislation. Legislation that was drafted and administered by public officials.
In 2017, the BC NDP platform promised:
We’ll protect whistleblowers, strengthen conflict-of-interest legislation and improve access to information rules.
Two and half years later, the promise is unkept.
Detailed terms of provincial business often remain secret. Quasi-public agencies, crown corporations, public-private partnerships, publicly owned private companies, FOI exemptions and other facilitators of evasion are used to shield financial arrangements from public view.
Open public tenders might be suitable to buy paper clips but not when obligations worth billions are created. Instead, government frequently prefers requests-for-proposals issued to favoured parties. Complex deals get awarded without real competition. Important terms and conditions are kept secret.
Are citizens of British Columbia protected from massive financial fraud?
Frankly, we have little protection.
Decades ago, when I was learning financial systems, internal control and audit techniques, one thing was clear. If opportunities for fraud are present without likelihood of timely discovery, it will occur. It will happen when small sums are at stake; it is even more likely when huge sums are in play.
So, who are the caretakers of public interest?
MLAs cannot speak except to amplify approved party policies. The Auditor General is underfunded and government pays large sums to consultants for opinions that are sometimes predetermined. Those opinions may be compromised by the large fees involved.
Influential media commentators have been co-opted by indirect financial rewards from parties with interests in public business. News publications and broadcasters enjoy lucrative government advertising but the quid pro quo might be friendly coverage.
And, of course, the bureaucracy expands to meet needs of an expanding bureaucracy. Executives multiply and salaries escalate, explained by the need to “to attract and retain skilled leadership“. Restraints imposed on junior civil servants have not been applied at the highest pay grades.
Corruption expands to meet the needs of the corrupt.