Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Island Hopping: Joana Camps

We would have had every good reason to have believed that we would have never heard of her again. Former minister, Joana Maria Camps, the second of the three in charge of education under José Ramón Bauzá, was relieved of her duties in September 2014. She had been minister for some eighteen months, during which time the islands' education system went from bad to worse and occasionally descended into farce, with Joana sometimes the cause.

During the time that she was minister, some started to note that she was heading off to Menorca - her home island - not infrequently. Among those doing the noting was the Assemblea de Docents, the teachers' assembly, for whom Joana was public enemy number two after Bauzá.

The Joana affair has, on two occasions, been considered by a court. On both occasions the matter was "archived", which typically means that no more is ever heard of it. However, the court in Palma has re-opened the case, and next month Joana will be obliged to explain herself. The Assemblea is pointing to the fact that Joana went to Menorca 32 times between May and December 2013 and that her stays often coincided with a weekend and lasted for more than a day. A contrast is being made with two visits that were made to Ibiza with travel there and back on the same day and one to Brussels that also involved same-day travel. In addition, there is the fact that Joana received 22,000 euros per annum compensation for needing to base herself in Mallorca.

The court has taken note of four specific trips that were apparently made: three days for a meeting with the mayor of Sant Lluís; six days for trophy-giving for the Almirante Ferragut regatta; five days for the Rocío pilgrimage; five days for the presentation of a magazine for the Sant Joan fiestas in Ciutadella. It should be noted that, in addition to having been education minister, she did also have responsibility for culture, but while this dual portfolio may offer some justification, the court would appear to believe that there is something a tad fishy which is worthy of further examination.

Joana has come out fighting, saying that she has nothing to hide and that there was no misuse of public funds. She is also drawing a comparison with a minister in the Antich government, Joana Barceló, who is also from Menorca and who was in charge of employment before adding the tourism brief in early 2010. Joana says that the other Joana made 46 trips to Menorca - 38 of them at weekends - between February and December 2010 and a further 28 in the five months of 2011 prior to the regional election.

Whether two wrongs - if it is deemed wrongs have been committed - make a right isn't really the issue. But it might be said that there is an issue regarding appointments of ministers (or indeed others) from those in the other islands. While it is only just that these are shared around, it is important that they are made for the right reasons and go to the right people. Joana, as was regularly pointed out, had no specific background that qualified her to be education minister. For an austerity-minded government, was an annual compensation for being based in Mallorca justified, when there were surely others who might have been better qualified for the post? Hers was an appointment to guarantee a following of the party (Bauzá) line on trilingual teaching, the previous and far better qualified incumbent, Rafael Bosch, having been less minded to give the policy his wholehearted support. 

The handing-out of appointments does have an element of a quota system to it in order that the other islands are represented in government. Hence, the current cabinet has Marc Pons and Esperança Camps (no relation) from Menorca and Joan Boned from Ibiza. As Boned is transport minister, it might be said that his wish for a 30 euro flat-rate inter-island flight tariff makes sense as it will save on the cost of any travel he has to make with his home island.

It is right that there is all-island representation (though Formentera tends not to get a look in), but then it is also right that travel does not give rise to certain suspicions. With Joana, it is possible that these would not have arisen or not gone as far as the courts, were it not for the Assemblea having it in for her. Is there vindictiveness? Possibly there is. But there again, it isn't altogether surprising that those suspicions were aroused, given the number of trips.

Ministers getting around the other islands should (and does) form part of what they do. A problem for Joana perhaps is less the trips she made to Menorca but the ones she didn't make to Ibiza.

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