'Quantum leap'

Finance minister hails new policy for selection of public board members

Observer staff reporter

Friday, June 08, 2018

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MONTEGO BAY, St James — Minister of Finance and the Public Service Dr Nigel Clarke has described last week's approval by Cabinet of a set of guidelines for the nomination, selection and appointment of board members to public sector bodies as “a quantum leap in the governance of public bodies in Jamaica” .

He underscored that greater professionalism must characterise the roles of public board members, rather than political allegiance.

“We seek to have, on one hand, transparency and accountability and modernisation, and bringing Jamaica in the 21st century. It has to be balanced by greater professionalism by those who serve on public boards, and greater fidelity to their role and function.

“When you serve on a public board, your role and function is not allegiance to some party... your allegiance is to the people of Jamaica and to the governance principles under which you were appointed,” Dr Clarke said.

“So the Cabinet also approved that this policy will move immediately to the drafting stage,” he continued.

The minister explained that, under the new policy, a database will be established, from which a technical secretariat set up in the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service will be able to pull the candidate that fits the competency profile.

“So you need an engineer to sit on the board of the NHT (National Housing Trust), you need somebody who has accounting skills to sit on the board of the UDC (Urban Development Corporation), for example, the technical secretariat could say here is a list of people who have the requisite skills and it will be a broad list,” Dr Clarke explained.

He added: “At this stage of selection... to keep the process dynamic, it doesn't necessarily mean that only the people in the database can be considered, because there may be somebody known to a permanent secretary or a minister who has the requisite skills and that person can be included. But the regulation law will specify that the person can only be considered for selection and appointment if they carry out the procedures to be included in the database.

“To be included in the database, some cursory due diligence, [such as] whether people have criminal record, if they are bankrupt, etc —criteria such as those — to be able to be maintained in the database,” he continued.

In fact, the minister also cited that the database will benefit from a wide range of stakeholders, “will be confidential, and by law, can only be used in the process of identifying, screening, and short-listing potential directors of public bodies”.

Under the new policy, a third of the membership of any board must be comprised of... “a third of the members of a board being carried over from a previous set of board members appointed under a previous minister or even a previous administration”.

The finance minister was speaking yesterday at the Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce and Industry's (MBCCI's) first quarterly breakfast since the new administration was formed in April. The event was held at the Bellefield Great House in Montego Bay, St James.

Noting that the new policy will require public support, Dr Clarke solicited the support of president of the MBCCI, Winston Lawson.

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