COMMENTARY: Redefine How We Select Boards In The Interest Of Good Governance

The content originally appeared on: Antigua News Room
Audley Phillip

……By: Audley Phillip

Redefine How We Select Boards In The Interest Of Good Governance

In just a little over a week, the people of Antigua and Barbuda will be going to the polls to elect a government to run the affairs of state for the next five years.  It is a crucial election for more reasons than one. Good luck to all the candidates.

Regardless of who wins the January 18th General Elections, the incoming government and the new house of representatives must quickly enact laws and rules governing the nomination, selection, management and accountability of Boards.  This process represents a seminal tool towards achieving improved Corporate Governance in respect to public bodies.

There is an urgent need for a more transparent and structured approach to the process of public body appointment.  All citizens have a vested interest in seeing our public bodies meeting and fulfilling their mandates.

Every single public body in Antigua impacts the lives of ordinary citizens on a daily basis and their Boards and Managers have control and Management of vast amounts of State resources.

There need to be greater and more transparent regulation of the process of Board appointment given the implications for achieving good public governance.

The names, knowledge, skill and experience of prospective directors must be subjected to a due diligence check and suitability for the post selected.

Public bodies are integral to the development and implementation of governments key policy objectives.  They are held accountable in relation to various statutory requirements.

Public bodies are NOT  the government of the day money chest and the Directors and Management must look out for their stakeholders interest.  The Board plays a supervisory’s  role, overseeing corporate activities and assessing performance.

Given the things that have been allowed to happen over the years at many of these Statutory bodies, it is clear that  many of them lack the competence and the independence that is required in order to function independently and  properly..  Over the years,  State bodies’ Board of Directors have reneged on their responsibility and have allowed the Central Government  to plunder the resources of one body or another in a most reckless  and callous manner.

If we simply just turn a blind eye to this and allow the status quo to continue, we would be leaving a country and a legacy for our children that is far from healthy.  We also cannot continue to have Cabinet  Ministers and other sitting Parliamentarians sit on public boards.  It is a conflict of interest and sends the wrong message.

We also need to undertake a  process of rationalisation of the public bodies  as we seek to identify their relevance, the effectiveness of their roles and functions and  determine the best modality by which those functions should be conducted.. The rationalisation or public bodies will result in fewer public bodies, increased efficiency in public service operations and better governance of the sector. It will also free up resources to pursue development of priority areas such as Health, Education, Public Works and Public Utilities.