It is either a case of politicians really not understanding or not wanting to admit that they do. In either case, the result is a public perception of ignorance or a crass dismissal of the rules that should apply to all.
Take the case of the Arthur Nibbs Foundation. Minister Nibbs has said, “I am very surprised that we are making such a big thing out of this. The necessary papers are at the Intellectual Properties with respect to registering the foundation. So that is correct. We are not fully registered, but that does not preclude us from going on to do our work because we are set about to look for material and assistance to help the people rebuild. And that is exactly what we are doing. What could be sinister about it? We did the presentation on ABS, in full view of the public. There is nothing to hide.”
He added, “It is a foundation established in my name to look about the interest of the people of Barbuda, and that is all it is.” Then, after dropping a few critical words regarding the inefficiency of the Intellectual Properties office, he let us know what this is all about. “It is about Arthur Nibbs. It is about my legacy. I have done a lot of work since I was a small guy coming up in politics, and I intend to leave a legacy so the Arthur Nibbs Foundation will remain!”
So, take that all you haters. Arthur Nibbs has done great things in his political career, and he will leave a legacy, even if he has to do it himself. Now give him a pen so that he can write the real history of Barbuda and a highlighter for his contributions.
It does not take much to see how egos eventually take over politicians, and they begin to believe that they are above everyone else. Nibbs acknowledges that his foundation is a legal non-entity but brushes aside the legal precondition in the same sentence. And he uses no excuse. He simply says that whatever rules that preclude a foundation from operating does not apply to him because, well, he is Arthur Nibbs, and he is helping people.
Humility is lost. What could have been a humble, sincere, apologetic moment that would help endear people to his foundation and its causes, turns into a ‘Registration?!? We doh need no stinking registration!’ scene reminiscent of The Treasure of the Sierra Madre movie. (Gosh! We are dating ourselves with that reference!)
For Nibbs to insist that the public handover of the donations from American University of Antigua (AUA) was done on ABS was sufficient evidence that there is nothing “sinister” and there is “nothing to hide,” is evidence that he does not know about transparency and accountability. It is not what people can see that worries them. It is what they cannot see. What else has the foundation received? Who were the donating entities or individuals? Etc., etc., etc. (See our previous opinion on foundations and the need for transparency if you want to get deeper into this topic.)
But when it was said and done, we discovered the real reason for the foundation’s establishment, and it had to do with more egotistical reasons than it does unselfish humanitarian and other causes. We originally wondered why Mister Nibbs would establish an independent route for donations when there were already official channels established, and his ego let us know. This is all about Arthur Nibbs and his legacy.
Don’t get us wrong. There is nothing wrong with a politician establishing a foundation. Lots do, and it seems to be the thing to do as of late. However, you do not often hear the founder expressing that the foundation is all about them rather than the people the foundation is meant to benefit. At least we can thank him for being honest about the real reason for the foundation; whether is was an accidental slip of the tongue or not.
For the other politicians or private individuals looking to set up charitable foundations, we have a few bits of advice. First, make sure your foundation is legally registered before you solicit donations. Second, establish a transparent process for accounting for every contribution so that contributors feel comfortable with donating. And finally, don’t tell people the mission of the foundation is to secure your legacy. No one is interested in donating to an ego!