Set standards for statutory boards
THERE HAS BEEN no widespread announcement by Government of appointments to the boards of the various statutory corporations and companies following its re-election in February. Board members under the last administration – even though the same Democratic Labour Party (DLP) administration – should not expect to be automatically reappointed.
So, while we await the announcements, we want to take up an important point raised last week by Senator Harry Husbands, Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Education who highlighted the need to ensure that such board members are trained and equipped to undertake their duties. We are in total agreement with this suggestion.
For too long, under both DLP and Barbados Labour Party administrations, many such appointments have been based on neither competence nor ability. We understand the need to reward party loyalists, but also appreciate certain standards must be set and maintained. The ministers of Government and their advisers must in some responsible way act as a nominating committee, coming up with the correct names for the right reasons.
They should reject the idea of taking someone without an understanding, the experience or knowledge to lead and or comprise the membership of a board. We must also dismiss the notion that because some appointees are from the legal or accounting professions they know what they are doing. The training to which Senator Husbands alluded is going to be a necessity.
High on the agenda for the directors of the various state agencies and school boards will be the issue of accountability. Despite not being shareholders the same due diligence applied to directors of private or public held companies must obtain.
These directors must understand the need to have sustainable institutions which can survive long after they demit office. So we would expect the directors of state boards to understand the importance of ethics and compliance, risk management and transparency.
One of the troubling features of state boards has been the tardiness with completing and delivering of annual reports. All the corporate governance standards now mandatory for both private and publicly-held businesses must obtain with state-owned agencies.
Most importantly these boards must appreciate that their duties are strategic; the executive management are paid to undertake day-to-day operations.
The role of the directors for state agencies – whether a commercial enterprise, a non-profit agency or even a school board – is a serious responsibility. Board governance can be critical to the success or failure of an organization.