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‘The deliberate cover-up of unwanted truths is more the norm than the exception’


 

Writing in the Ottawa Citizen, Nipa Banerjee, a former CIDA official described as the head of aid in Afghanistan from 2003 to 2006, explains what she’s been told about torture in Afghanistan and details her particularly experiences.

It seems to me the deliberate cover-up of unwanted truths is more the norm than the exception, especially on the Afghanistan file because of its high public profile. Hiding bad news from the media and the public are the standard operating procedures. What examples do we set while we demand eradication of corruption in Afghanistan? The track record is not pretty…

In 2005-’06, a fraud charge surrounding a CIDA-financed program (approximately $4 million) was brought to my attention by employees of the Canadian NGO charged with implementing it. At this time, against my strongest recommendations and a negative external evaluation, CIDA was considering a second grant to this politically valued NGO, so I was told. Upon receipt of my e-mail alerting CIDA headquarters about the alleged fraud, a superior instructed me to not write any more e-mails on the subject, specifically so as to not leave any written trail that might have to be made available to the Canadian public under the Access to Information Act. My attempts to probe the results of any audit on the NGO met with similar stern warnings. This NGO soon announced bankruptcy.


 

‘The deliberate cover-up of unwanted truths is more the norm than the exception’

  1. So is the policy question then, do we never deal with any government or engage in any military venture where Canadian standards plus moral and jusicial infrastructure are not already in place?

    Just asking.

    • Why is the policy question a binary choice between "deliberate cover-up of unwanted truths" and "never deal[ing] with any government or engage in any military venture where Canadian standards plus moral and jusicial infrastructure are not already in place"?

      Just asking.

      • I agree, I dont think it should be a binary choice. However, I am seeing language and attitude that will drive things in that direction.

        • so I should ignore your original post and wait for a nuanced assessment of how Canada should have transparent and principled engagement with morally/etically ambiguous questions then?

          • I wanted to highlight that where we are going with this debate will take us into this territory. The expression, that perfection is the enemy of the good is applicable in this situation. Now, I dont know if this is where Mr Colvin wants to go, or if this is where the opposition wants to go…but thats the destination this is driving towards.

            So Mr Wherry's highlighted post indicates there was corruption in the Afghan government and that not all of our aid was probably making it to the ground. This is a bad situation, but is it surprising?, is it reason to stop and why stop it on this occassion as opposed to other situations? Are there absolutes or matters of degree, and are they traded off in terms of other foreign policy goals. Is anyone, government, critics interested in these questions at all. Once again I suspect this is just politics.

  2. "a superior instructed me to not write any more e-mails on the subject, specifically so as to not leave any written trail that might have to be made available to the Canadian public under the Access to Information Act"

    I'm wondering to what extent this dynamic is a product of this particular government and this particular war action, as opposed to standard operating procedure that has been entrenched for some time.

    • Through 05-06 (the period the selection refers to) we had a government transition from Liberal to Conservative minority.

      I would venture to say that where the SOP doesn't change from government to government, it's not just the politicians who have to wear it, but the senior bureaucrats as well.

    • I'm wondering to what extent this dynamic is a product of this particular government

      Nipa Banerjee, a former CIDA official described as the head of aid in Afghanistan from 2003 to 2006

      It's an interesting question you raise, considering that Banerjee was part of CIDA under the Chrétien/Martin gov'ts. I'm starting to wonder myself if all the blame can be laid at the feet of this current gov't, or if it's just business as usual (entrenched for some time, as you describe it), carried on from the previous governments.

    • The correct answer is entrenched for some time. When I was working in a core department in the federal government after the ATI legislation came in (this was all pre-Harper I might add) it quickly became SOP to be careful what was put down on paper. I recall an interesting case where a Chief of Staff to a very senior Cabinet Minister well known to all Canadians asked me to rewrite a memo to file in case it became part of an ATI case. With the support of my ADM, I refused to rewrite it and it eventually was one of a number of documents tabled in Parliament during a Committee hearing about 3-4 years ago.

      • I know for a fact that in pre-Harper Ottawa all the juicy stuff was on sticky notes appended to files. They were easy to remove if the documents were targeted in an ATI. This tactic is really effective when you understand things are easy to hide if they are only looked for where they are supposed to be. The skeletons are in the files, the meat is elsewhere.

        • I worked for a Conservative MP when the Tories were in Opposition, and we were instructed by officials from the OLO to always include the sticky notes in our ATIP requests.

          • Keith was a sharp guy.

  3. So they figure the best way to avoid widespread public knowledge of the nasty stuff they do is to stop writing about the nasty stuff they do.

    But do you know what I think is the best way to make sure the public never hears about the government doing nasty stuff? NOT DOING NASTY STUFF IN THE FIRST PLACE.

    Sorry for the all caps, but this is ridiculous. You don't have to deal with the headache of a cover up if you make sure there's nothing to cover up. Period. It's so damn simple.

  4. ''The UN-contracted expatriate personnel who reported such negligence were given regular reprimands and were forbidden by the UN bosses in Kabul to speak to the donors.
    My conversations with UN personnel in Kabul yielded no results. ''

    And I'm wondering the same about the UN, Sean.

    • Take note too of the dates
      'a former CIDA official described as the head of aid in Afghanistan from 2003 to 2006',

      the very genesis of Canadians trying to drag Afghanistan out of the 14 century.

  5. And the only way to ensure that, is to stay home.

  6. "a superior instructed me to not write any more e-mails on the subject, specifically so as to not leave any written trail that might have to be made available to the Canadian public under the Access to Information Act"

    I'm wondering if this is the standard Canadians were expecting based on the when they elected the Conservatives in 2006. This is not accountability or transparency. It is the opposite. Harper likes to preach from the moral high ground but the actions of his government consistently bias toward coverup, smear and attack.

    • To be fair, the Liberals were in the final days of their government when this occurred.

      Isn’t this a case for whistleblowing? I wish more low- and mid-level bureaucrats were given the protection to feel comfortable bringing to light problems like this.

  7. This situation would sink any government in a properly-functioning democracy.
    As would have the in/out scandal, the Chalk river scandal, the bad-meat scandal, the fantasy-budget-and-party-de-funding schema. etc.
    With the help a bunch of career-threats, some ass-covering generals, a compliant media and a somnolent public the Harper regime has successfully turned this into a he-said she-said type farce.

    Stand up for Canada. Indeed!

  8. ‘The deliberate cover-up of unwanted truths is more the norm than the exception'

    Well Aaron, considering the fact that ClimateGate has yet to make an appearance on a national newscast, I submit to you that the above phrase is as true of your industry as it is of politicians.

    • Way to stay on topic.

      What did you have for dinner last night? I had Greek; it was really delicious.

      Do you like Van Halen?

      • David Lee Roth-era or Sammy Hagar-era Van Halen?

        • I was introduced to Hagar, and while never a huge fan of VH, prefer Hagar.

          Roth has more personality though

      • How do you stay on topic when the topic is what the media doesn't talk about?

        • Not a Greek fan?

    • The emails you and your delusional brethren keep humping haven't been covered up. The emails and discussion about them can be seen all over the place.

      • Yes, but until everybody believes his point of view, they're obviously not being reported accurately.

  9. certainly not the Gary Cherone era!

  10. I'm certain Aaron wasn't trying to be ironic with ‘The deliberate cover-up of unwanted truths is more the norm than the exception' but just stop and consider for a moment. As John mentions above, what about "climategate"? Also as Colby Cosh blogged the other day what about the breast cancer screening? And most obvious of all, what about the CBS News reports that State statistics on swine flu show under one per cent of lab tested patients, diagnosed by their MD as HINI cases actually have the disease.

    All three examples demonstrate clear public policy decisions made on shaky scientific grounds. All three funnel billions of taxpayer dollars to specific recipients. Critics of the programs face relentless character assasination, career destruction and are labeled "deniers".

    If you are open minded you can find many many more examples. I call this "the pattern of information". When you encounter it you KNOW the fix is in. I am not for a second saying I know what really is going on, but I am certain when you see this "pattern of information" you know that whatever is being pushed is BS for specific economic or geopolitical gain.

  11. The problem isn't the government in this case, it's CIDA itself. CIDA needs to be scrapped and a new organization with different people created in its place.

    • In one of those coincidences you can't make up, Maurice Strong is godfather to both CIDA and Global warming (Rio 92). My understanding of CIDA is that it allows "connected" Canadian firms to make money delivering Canadian aid supplied by canadian firms, paid for with tax dollars. My understanding of AGW is that it is a scam that will allow "connected" firms to make out like bandits, again funded by tax dollars…I guess the fruit really doesn't fall far from the tree.

      Oh, by the way…Chairman Mo is also former Power Corporation guy, you know, the Canadian company commisioning something like one new coal fired electrical generation plant a month in China. And surely it is just a coincidence that Mo is working with George Soros on the Cherry, China's new auto company. I'm sure they are all green cars.

      • Nice drive-by slander of Maurice Strong, Peter. In any case, it seems you agree with me. Don't forget to let your thoughts be known to Prime Minister Stevie.

        • Mo does good work all on his own for slander…something about a million dollars for Mo's son via Convicted crook Tongsen Park, via Paribas bank (in which the Desmarais family has/had a significant stake) from the Iraq Oil for food scandal…is there still a warrant out for his arrest?

          On Afstan and torture I am sure there is both misinformation and a lot of truth in the allegations, but in a complex operation on the other side of the world, where you are junior partner, punching way over your weight and from the perspective of the soldiers turning over prisoners to the "legitimate government" when they are seeing their brothers/sisters in arms being murdered by IEDs I'm prepared to cut them a little slack.

          There sure aren't many votes to be won on Afstan, do you think it's possible there is another dynamic?

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