First and foremost, my heartfelt congratulations to all those who have made it into various boards of parastatal organisations. President Lazarus McCarthy Chakwera also deserves a pat on the back for a job well done for putting into boards professionals, well aligned to the tasks.
Gone is the time when armed only with political affiliation as a qualification, some people expected the appointing authorities to draft them into these public entities. Such people had nothing to contribute in running the organisations. Instead they graciously accepted the appointments for the financial benefits they provided. The problem was two-fold. For not being of any professional value and capital to the boards, they were at the mercy of the appointing authority. On the other hand, the appointing authority would be assured that a majority of the undeserving board members would always want to please the appointing bwana or they would be kicked out. Meaning they could not raise an eyebrow on some suspicious transaction if it involved the big bwana.
That is how what are supposed to be money-minting companies such as the Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (Escom), Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA), Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (Macra), Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority (Mera), among others, have over the years, found themselves at the centre of financial malfeasance.
The roles of the Board of Directors are very clear. They include providing direction for the organisation, establishing a policy based governance system, recruiting, supervising, retaining staff, as well as performing fiduciary duties to protect the organisation’s assets and member’s investment. The overall aim of the boards of directors is to maximise return on shareholders’ investment. And not to siphon them as has been happening in most public companies in the country.
So an appointing authority has nobody else to blame but itself for rocking the boat by stuffing it with cargo that is only likely to end up being thrown into the water or make the vessel capsize.
Now that we have boards of directors for government companies in place, let the work begin. The honeymoon for the newly-appointed directors ends as soon as they get their appointment letters. They have a humongous task to transform the boards from perennial loss makers to profit-making organisations with potential to grow the country’s economy. But for them to be able to do so, there is need for a mindset change. The board members go there to improve the organisations and not to milk them. They go there to take the organisations out of the intensive care units where they have been on life support for so long and breathe life in them. And not to eat. Those going there to eat should think twice before they waste government’s time and resources.
The Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) should put in place a vibrant monitoring and evaluation system. And just not develop it. It should use it to catch loafers and officers that have no clue about their job and are therefore irrelevant; they are excess baggage or surplus to requirement. Public Service officers have this notoriety of spending days and weeks at the lake developing documents and instruments meant to modernise performance but once done, they are left gather dust on the shelves at Capital Hill.
The Public Reforms Sector Department has a duty to ensure there are effective and implementable annual assessment mechanisms in place for board members, management and staff in all institutions. There is this delusion in the public service that it is the safest place to work because Government does not get rid of lazy and unqualified employees. This is the mindset that has killed the spirit of hard work in the public sector. Long gone is the spirit of hard work in the public service because its reward system is not based on performance. It’s time Government started rewarding performance as opposed to the system in place now where everybody gets a pay hike after mass protests. OPC should also set annual targets for all Government companies. Chairpersons whose institutions fail to reach the targets for no good reason should be shown the exit door. But this means that Government should enclose a performance close in the contracts of all board members.