Click here to print page

If Dr Clarke can rid public bodies of the pork barrel…

Sunday, June 10, 2018

The presence of boards of public bodies will, for now and the foreseeable future, remain critical to the governance structure of Jamaica for a number of important, if obvious reasons.

Such boards provide people with the expertise necessary to guide these often highly technical and sensitive bodies, without the taxpayer having to pay the kind of salary they would normally command to acquire such expertise.

They also create opportunities for those patriotic individuals who do not wish to be entangled in the divisive electoral politics of the country, to contribute to its development in ways that are necessary for its advancement.

Jamaica operates with approximately 190 public bodies, each having between seven and 17 directors, amounting to over 2,000 board positions. Many vacancies remain unfilled for long periods while the search continues for qualified individuals.

It has been to our lasting shame that many of these boards have, over the years, been nothing but barrels of pork for unscrupulous politicians who load them up with people whose only qualification is their willingness to carry out their nefarious activities.

Our country has bled and suffered at the hands of these political sycophants who have siphoned off voluminous amounts of national resources while giving back little or nothing in the way of service to the nation.

Against that background, therefore, we are among the first of those applauding Finance and Public Service Minister Dr Nigel Clarke who last week announced sensible new and long awaited rules to guide the nomination, selection and appointment of public boards.

Explaining the rationale to the Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce, Minister Clarke said the new rules are essential to having “a formal and rigorous process for reviewing regularly the performance of the board, its committees and individual directors, and purposefully addressing any issue that may emerge from those evaluations”.

We are especially happy with the fact that the new regulations require retention of at least a third of the previous board directors to ensure continuity in governance even if there is a change in policy direction, read change of Government.

“It will be crucial that board members understand what their role is. If they do not agree with the policy of the day, they can resign, but their role will be to ensure that the policy of the day is carried through. Ministers, accountable to the people through Parliament, will need to be able to rely on this,” Dr Clarke correctly stressed.

Those who wish to serve on boards will also heed the minister's words that “your role and function is not allegiance to a party or to the party that formed the Government when you were appointed”.

“Instead, your allegiance is to the instrument of your appointment, the governance principles on which you were appointed and, by extension, to the people of Jamaica,” the minister said.

Time will tell if the new regulations come to represent “a quantum leap in the governance of public bodies in Jamaica”, as Dr Clarke promises. But he is on the right track, and all well-thinking Jamaicans, we believe, will support him.