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EDITORIAL: State boards need radical shake-up


EDITORIAL: State boards need radical shake-up

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THE PRESIDENT OF the Barbados Union of Teachers, Pedro Shepherd, has made a call for the revamp of secondary school boards. He feels that there is no justification for one at each school. While other educators and teachers’ union leaders may not share his viewpoint of the numbers required, they too want significant changes.

We cannot continue with the old order where politicians from the ruling parties have been allowed unabridged scope to reward party loyalists, friends and even family as they see fit with such appointments. That approach has become entrenched, but has not always worked to the country’s advantage.

Both the Barbados Labour Party and the Democratic Labour Party, which have governed this island alternatively since the 1950s, have been guilty of this cronyism. As a result, the key factors required in appointments to boards – that of competency and transparency – have been honoured more in the breach than in the observance of good corporate governance rules. This is why under new rules, matters such as candidates being limited two consecutive terms and not serving on more than two boards should become standard requirements.

There can be no denial that there will be prime minister’s and indeed minister’s prerogative as it relates to appointments to statutory boards, but the opportunity for abuse should be significantly restricted by having the correct oversight systems in place.

This is why the establishment of an independent Public Appointments Commission, entrenched in the Constitution, should be considered. Just like Mr Shepherd, all Barbadians should want to ensure candidates selected to serve on boards, agencies, corporations and commissions, not only avoid any conflict of interest issues, but also be people of the highest personal and professional integrity.

That is why such an independent commission should be able to request nominees to these state boards, particularly proposed chairmen, to appear before it to discuss their qualifications and give their strategic vision of the intended role.

In an effort to get the best talent and from a wider pool than the existing partisan political guidelines, consideration ought to be given to a process of advertising the positions to seek those citizens who feel obligated to give public service.

The appointments should be made public, not only through the Official Gazette which is very limited, but by way of a dedicated website and also in press releases which allow the wider public to be informed. This allows the process to be open, rigorous and transparent.

Mr Shepherd has clearly started an important public discourse which comes at a most opportune time as political candidates begin to court the public for their votes ahead of the next general election.

We the people must demand better governance of our affairs.