Easier said than done

Recent experience confirms that the replacement of boards of state enterprises and of statutory authorities is, to a painful extent, easier said than done. Appointments, or re-appointments, to boards coincide with changes of government.

It is apparent, however, that the incumbency periods for such appointees fall short of the five-year terms of political administrations. Incoming administrations are entitled to have boards reflect or represent their political, economic and other perspectives. Changes of government accordingly entail wholesale removal of directors, despite the experience and expertise they may collectively and individually have acquired.

This implies taking chances with unproven newcomers whose qualifications may or may not extend beyond enjoyment of ruling party favour.

Planning Minister Bhoe Tewarie last week publicised his unhappiness with the Chaguaramas Development Authority board.

“It was a board I inherited, not recommended,” he said. He also announced a recommendation to the cabinet for removal of the present CDA directors, and presumably for replacements more acceptable to himself.

Until the CDA became embroiled in allegations amounting to spying on a reporter, that authority had been identified with some go-getting drive and forward-thinking. Its boardwalk project looks like a popular success story; its advocacy of a Chaguaramas “master plan” and a seaway link to Port of Spain bespoke relatively progressive ideas meriting exploration and implementation.

Tewarie, however, appears to have reasonable grounds for finding new CDA board members.

“If you cannot get the board to agree, you have a problem,” he said, referring to evident failure of teamwork inside the CDA boardroom.

Though unaware last week if he would himself survive any Cabinet night of the long knives, CDA chairman Daniel Solomon appeared to endorse Tewarie’s judgment of the board as an entity impossible to work with.

Solomon referred to a meeting called by the minister at which only three of nine board members turned up, and about an hour late.

“I don’t think that impressed him much,” he said, likely identifying Tewarie’s last straw.

Cabinet board selectors will have to hope for better luck this time than in 2010 when the People’s Partnership administration took a long and costly time to find directors. Then some choices shortly proved far less than suitable.

In the filling of board vacancies, party supporters proved to be some of the squarest of pegs for the round holes to be filled on boards. Moreover, burdensome requirements of falling under Integrity Commission oversight represent another deterrent factor for otherwise well-qualified candidates.

If not luckier than the last time, this administration should at least be wiser, having learned from bitter experience. It should thus realise that, in the interest of finding competent and reliable candidates for boards, it is probably time to review both the practice of patronage appointments and the implications of Integrity Act obligations.

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