Thu | Aug 17, 2017

Editorial | Diversity needed on public boards

Published:Saturday | June 11, 2016 | 6:00 AM

The Holness administration has been heavily criticised for its tardiness in naming persons to crucial public-sector boards since assuming office in March of this year.

While it is absolutely essential to put in place prudent management in the shortest time, this activity should not be seen as a race. We feel it is not a bad idea to take time to mull over choices in order to arrive at meaningful appointments which may result in fewer scandals, the likes of which we have seen swirling around several public-sector boards in recent times.

Recently, allegations of board members undertaking consultancies or securing lucrative contracts for state entities they serve have been highlighted by the auditor general. It is not the first time these concerns have been raised.

It is an indictment of the political system that successive administrations have been reluctant to appoint sage, independent persons to state boards. Instead, the practice has been to stack them with party supporters. The truth is that many come to these boards without any understanding of the framework of rules and practices by which directors work to ensure accountability, fairness and transparency in the management of a company's affairs.

Worse than that, many come to these boards without the slightest concept of what is a conflict of interest. It's almost as if some believe that since they are doing the job of a volunteer, their compensation should include looting the organisations which they serve. For many board appointees, their only credential is their party affiliation. They have neither entrepreneurial nor management skills which could help them contribute to the successful performance of the entities which they serve.

 

AWESOME RESPONSIBILITY

 

These public-sector bodies have an awesome governance responsibility to steer an entity on behalf of the portfolio minister. They play a key role in shaping the strategy, vision and purpose of an organisation. If a member performs well, he or she ought to be considered for reappointment to ensure continuity.

Come to think of it, these entities determine the quality of the air which we breathe, whether we have water in our taps, the kind of medical care available to patients, the education offered our children, whether our garbage is collected, and where we live, so we submit that those who serve on these boards should come armed with the requisite skills and relevant technical knowledge and sectoral expertise. The aim should be to import experience to add value to the public sector, for it is without doubt an influential role.

For this reason, we feel it is desirable to tap a diverse mix of talent to ensure the transparent and successful administration of public-sector boards. Why not throw it open and invite persons to submit their rÈsumÈs for consideration to serve on state boards where vacancies exist? This would be an innovative departure from the old style.

But let's not give in to utopian thinking. The current administration is expected to fall in line and embrace the existing culture, like all Governments before it, and honour the unfortunate tradition that says: find a few good Labourites and install them on boards. Your move, Mr Holness.