Ministers must hold regular board meetings

Thursday, December 13, 2018

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PRIME Minister Andrew Holness says Cabinet ministers are now required to convene regular meetings with the board chairs and members of public bodies under their portfolios as part of measures to strengthen the entities' governance and accountability frameworks.

The decision comes in the wake of the auditor general's report into the operations of State refinery, Petrojam, which revealed, among other things, a breakdown in the entity's oversight process.

Addressing a press conference at Jamaica House on Monday, the prime minister said that ministers must now hold quarterly meetings to facilitate review of the minutes and activities of boards for the specified period, and plan for the ensuing quarter.

He said he will be asking the Cabinet Office to incorporate this mandate in the Ministers' Code of Conduct.

Holness said the ministers have also been directed to meet biannually with board chairs and, where possible, the full membership, to undertake policy reviews and ensure that they are kept abreast of developments within public bodies.

“So, the quarterly meeting is more to enshrine the process of interrogation of administration… and the biannual meeting is to ensure that the boards are focused on policy. This is a mechanism for evaluation,” he pointed out.

Holness noted that while some ministers already have these arrangements in place “it is not a standard procedure… but going forward, all ministers will have to function in this regard. So then, there is no possibility of a minister saying 'I did not know'”.

He advised the ministers to employ the use of technology and reengineer their business processes in order to effectively carry out their new mandate.

Meanwhile, Holness said ministers will also be asked to reflect on the mission of all agencies under their watch and ensure that there is recommitment of all the boards to that goal.

“All of those boards should have their mission statements and policies set out. The ministers have to go through that exercise with each and every board,” he said.

Holness argued that “when a public agency starts to feel that it is appropriate to have personal expenses tagged on to the public funds, then you start to wonder what is happening to the mission… are our public agencies properly missioned?”

“We have to, at all costs, combat that kind of mindset,” he said.

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