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Break cycle of poor governance

Barbados Nation

Break cycle of poor governance

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THE RECENT DISCLOSURES of gross inefficiencies at Caves of Barbados Limited, a Government-owned company, cannot be described as anything other than disquieting. Even to those who adopt the most laissez-faire attitude to how the business of the state is handled, this must be nothing other than a major national embarrassment.

The facts as outlined in the Senate by Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Tourism, Irene Sandiford-Garner, speak to a litany of woes ranging from the non-filing of annual reports, apparent poor management of the business and other deficiencies not acceptable in any modern organisation.

Subsequent reports carried in both the most recent Sunday Sun and Monday’s DAILY NATION highlighted a more worrisome situation. There are clearly big gaps in accountability and transparency.

Elements of good governance demand greater accountability, transparency and availability of information and a legal framework. Public sector management must also be on board with such measures.

What has been outlined about the operations of Caves of Barbados – the company which operates the island’s most popular attraction Harrison’s Cave – suggests that most of the basic rules of good corporate governance were not being adhered to.

The concept of good governance is recognised as a key issue in the transformation of businesses and Government through encouraging greater participation by the wider public and the building of confidence. The private sector now places greater emphasis on good corporate governance while the regulatory agencies are adamant about such practices being entrenched in the operations of a range of businesses.

A number of things are required. Government itself must act, not only to shake up the management of Caves of Barbados, but also to put the correct measures in place to avoid a recurrence of the negligence exhibited.

It tells why all state boards must have directors who not only understand their fiduciary responsibilities, but also appreciate the requirements to report to the shareholders – taxpayers through the Government – annually which must include sign-off from the auditors, even if with a qualified statement.

This situation raises concerns about all state-owned companies and their levels of accountability. Discerning members of the public must now wonder about how they deal with procurement and the prevention of fraud.

This all points to the need for whistleblowers and an independent media, even without a Freedom of Information Act, to be undaunted in undertaking their duty given the demand for better governance, in both the private and public sectors.

What has so far been highlighted at Caves of Barbados is untenable. It is vital that we break the cycle of poor governance.