Code of conduct coming for Gov't board members

Published: Thursday | July 22, 2010 Comments 0

MEMBERS OF government boards who flout the Public Bodies Management and Accountability Act may, in future, have to face strong sanctions which are being crafted as part of new regulations to govern the operations of the public sector.

Deputy financial secretary, Robert Martin, revealed on Tuesday that the Government was now promulgating a code of conduct and behaviour for board members into regulations and law.

His comments came against the background of flagrant breaches of state guidelines at the Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica (PCJ), which were unveiled in a forensic audit last year.

"... So that any sort of behaviour by board members which is not in keeping with the Public Bodies Act and with the regulations will suffer the consequences via the law," declared Martin yesterday, at a Public Accounts Committee (PAC) meeting which was examining the special forensic audit report.

Auditor General Pamela Monroe Ellis also made a presentation to the PAC on the audit.

The probe was conducted by Canadian auditing firm, Papineau Consultants.

The audit had discovered weaknesses in internal controls, inadequate supporting documents and authorisations for transactions processed and poor segregation of duties.

On the matter of the daily running of the PCJ, the auditor was concerned about the unfettered powers wielded by both the then chairman and the director of administration.

Felt bypassed

According to Monroe Ellis, the report indicated that some directors felt that they were bypassed in the decision-making process of the agency.

"Directors of the board should not be latent in their approach, but where they believe that the practices are contrary to proper corporate governance or to the overall objectives and guidelines of government, then they have to be vocal in that regard and also to take action," Monroe Ellis stressed.

Minutes of a board meeting at the PCJ, dated March, 2008, revealed that the then chairman of the board was very involved in the day-to-day operations of the agency.

"The operations of the PCJ had a strong stamp of the chairman and the director of administration," a board member stated.

In submitting recommendations, Monroe Ellis said non-executive members should vigorously challenge the conduct and decisions of other members of the board and executive and hold them accountable.

She also wants non-executive directors to evaluate the performance of the board chairman, at least once each year.

Monroe Ellis said the recommendations were not specific to the PCJ. She said they should be applied to other government bodies.

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