Editorial: The Ministry of Miseducation under Michael Browne

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The irony was not lost to many Antiguans and Barbudans – the good MP Michael Browne, he of sartorial splendour and fastidious deportment – was exposed as a big phony and one not given to paying attention to the details of his job. Of course we are being extremely charitable when we suggest that the good and erudite Minister was merely “inattentive.” The “Dapper Don,” as we have dubbed him; he who could not abide an out-of-place crease in his slim-fit suits or an improperly-adjusted neckwear, was quite slack in his failure to er . . . iron out all the creases and wrinkles in this sloppy eBooks contract that landed right smack on the Prime Minister’s desk.

If the PM is to be believed, and we have no reason to doubt him, especially since he was the very person who raised the alarm on the . . . ‘miseducation’ fiasco, he was not aware of the government’s $10 million liability. Neither were the members of his cabinet, save for one member whom he declined to name. It stands to reason that if the PM was aware of the debt obligation and was au fait with the particulars of the excessive contract, he would have made the payment and covered it up. Politicians do that as a matter of course. It is the coin of the realm. But, to his eternal credit, he did not ‘hush-hush’ this matter, and his ‘righteous indignation’ and his emphatic declaration that those responsible for this mess will be held accountable (whatever that means) is indeed heartening.

Clearly, it appears as though miseducation top brass wanted to hide the financial obligation of the government to Fortuna Pix, the “usurious” eBooks company that was (in our view) shaking down the people of Antigua and Barbuda with the provision of tablets (some 6000) and services that were not worth spit. To that end, they amateurishly attempted to secure a loan from the Antigua Commercial Bank to satisfy the terms of this millstone contract around the necks of the people of Antigua and Barbuda, supposedly unawares to the PM and the rest of the cabinet.

In his lame presentation in parliament on Wednesday, the embattled Minister of Miseducation, spent an inordinate amount of time explaining how the eBooks work (yawn!) and so on and so forth, instead of addressing the only issue that anybody cared about, to wit, what the hell happened, how the hell are you going to escape a reprisal for this debacle that unfolded on your watch? And that you championed? And that represents a major liability for the taxpayers of this blessed country? For eBooks that are woefully lacking in content, are slow and unwieldy, and for all intents and purposes, are worthless?

Mr. Minister of Miseducation, your disingenuous mea culpa, your protestations that there was no “hanky-panky” and the blithe dismissal of this entire sordid affair as a mere “irregularity” will not suffice. Notwithstanding your abject apology and pathetic genuflection in parliament, all the school children in Antigua and Barbuda can see that you are not wearing any clothes. And school children have a way of calling it exactly as they see it. Your apologies fall flat, as have your protestations that there was no attempt to deceive and “no cover-up.” In fact, Mr. Minister, you have offended our senses and sensibilities with your pious description of the whole sordid affair as merely “an oversight” in “not making them sufficiently aware of the obligation” and “working to rectify the blunder.” We are in no mood to abide your continued poor stewardship of what has effectively become the Ministry of Miseducation under your feckless watch.

Way back in the mid 1640’s, the famous Oliver Cromwell made the following plea to a parliament that had become notorious for its ineffectiveness and lackluster performance: “You have sat too long here for any good you have been doing. Depart, I say, and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go!” We say the very same to the good Minister of Miseducation in our fair state!

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