“Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you” – Hebrews 13:17
We have been reflecting on the value of the social partnership philosophy as an essential component of effective governance, where the social partners benefit from the synergies of interaction for the good of the Nation. When the Nation does well we all do well.
Good management facilitates the achievement of the objectives as set out in our plans at all levels within the system. Monitoring and controlling, a very important function of management, is a quality control process and ensures that the ship of government stays on course, according to our preset benchmarks, and that ultimately the electorate is well pleased and we shall achieve and maintain the status of a happy Nation.
The recently elected Barbados Government has shown positive signs of the intent to practise effective governance. Even though we have not yet been apprised of all the plans in the various Ministries and Statutory Corporations, we expect them to mirror the DLP manifesto presentation. It takes a little time to get these organisations in place and to assign the necessary human resources, where change is deemed to be necessary. The leadership of the Ministries has been selected and that for the rest of Statutory Corporations we expect to be announced soon.
If this monitoring and control function of management is neglected, then Homo sapiens will tend to self destruct. In this context, management, the post cabinet press conferences, the backbenchers, the opposition shadow cabinet and the people of Barbados (through the Call in Programmes), all have an important quality control role to play.
Even before the Ministerial and Statutory Corporation plans (culminating in the annual Estimates) have been communicated, it may be observed that there have been corrective actions taken by the Cabinet in what they have interpreted as glaring inconsistencies. This, in my opinion, is a good sign. Each Ministry and Statutory Corporation has to be subjected, on a regular basis, to the same level of monitoring and controlling so that immediate corrective action can be taken to keep the ship on course. The government has promised that there will be a press conference following each weekly meeting of the Cabinet. To date they are on course. This serves as an excellent mechanism to regularly keep the electorate informed as to their plans and controls, as well as their successes and corrective actions.
An open process such as this prevents one from yielding to the temptation of sweeping problems under the carpet and forces one to find appropriate solutions to deal with situations in a timely manner. If this process is systematically handled, although daunting in its magnitude, there is a good chance of achieving success.
A number of forensic audits were promised in the campaign prior to the general election to arrest the haemorrhaging of government funds in major projects. Already there has been positive action in this direction and we look forward to a comprehensive review across all sectors.
There is one concept that has not been comprehensively introduced in the governance system in Barbados and that is the concept of Executive Chairmanship of Statutory Corporations. We see it to some extent in the private sector and at the Central Bank of Barbados, but not for other Statutory Corporations. It should be noted that in the Statutory Corporation system, the Chairman reports to the Minister. I have been the Chairman of three and Deputy Chairman of two public sector corporations and my experience has led to the following recommendation.
In a small community where specific expertise is at a premium, if one wants to fully benefit from the best expertise available at the Chairmanship level one has to be prepared to pay for that service. To ask individuals to be Chairmen as part of their civic responsibility runs the risk of not benefiting fully from their time and expertise (in the case of the Chairmen who are not willing to compromise the demands of their substantive enterprise). In the event that the individuals compromise the demands of their substantive enterprise, then they may subsequently regret their decision when it is realised that their substantive enterprise has suffered a set back while they were sharing their time with public duty. In either case it is suboptimal.
My recommendation is to recruit the best person as Executive Chairman and let him share technical and administrative responsibilities with the CEO, as is appropriate. The Executive Chairman would be part time and he would be recompensed commensurately with the time spent. This could lead to more effective management of the organisation (two heads are better than one) and could be very cost effective, the increase in marginal benefits would be greater than the increase in marginal costs. If the Chairman is merely transient, as is the status quo, then the organisation is robbed of the benefits of a potentially greater interaction between the Chairman and the CEO. The synergy created from the interaction would redound to the benefit of the organisation and in turn to the country and hence to us all.