Surely, the rationale behind public sector reforms is to improve the performance of public institutions. The anticipation is that, with the improved performance, government will effectively and efficiently provide timely, relevant and quality goods and services to citizens.
But if the reforms do not extend to review how boards of public institutions are constituted, the expected improvement in performance will not be achieved. The boards determine how public decisions are made and how public actions are carried out from the perspective of maintaining a country’s constitutional values.
This is governance.
Ideally, governance seeks to achieve certain principles which assure that decisions being made and subsequent actions maximise public benefits.
Among the principles are accountability, transparency, responsiveness, efficiency, effectiveness, rule of law, equity and inclusiveness. Truly, only public institutions being governed by fully independent boards will achieve these principles.
Since public institutions are functioning in a rapidly changing environment where they are constantly challenged by emerging problems, the authorities championing reforms need to identify and put in place a framework that will facilitate the establishment of more autonomous boards in order to enhance public institutions’ responsiveness to emerging issues.
Performance of public institutions will never improve if the nation maintains the status quo whereby presidents remain the appointing authority of board members. This is the reason the boards will not act independently.
It is a fact that presidents are compelled to appease members of the ruling party by appointing them in boards minus the requisite qualifications that would make them contribute effectively towards ensuring that the institutions are well governed to the benefit of the general public.
Even when the authority appoints technocrats in boards, professionalism is compromised largely because ruling party zealots expect them to toe along the party line. For instance, why do we get surprised when we see public institution vehicles being abused by ruling parties?
In this case, even if technocrat members in boards are aware that the practice of using public vehicles by party functionaries is against good governance, they cannot do the needful as this will be biting fingers that feed them. This is an example of how the current way of appointing boards of public institutions is making them less independent and effective.
Certainly, if public institutions’ boards were autonomous, independent decisions on what actions to carry out would have been made and this would contribute to the attainment of good governance. For example, in the case of the abuse of public vehicles, if boards were fully independent, the vehicles would have been assigned to perform only those functions that would benefit the general public and not ruling parties. With this, public institutions would have been achieving some principles of good governance including efficiency, effectiveness, equity, inclusiveness and the rule of law.
When public institution vehicles are assigned to perform ruling party functions, the assignments for which the vehicles were purchased suffer. This surely affects the effectiveness of concerned institutions.I urge proponents of public sector reforms to seriously consider reforming the way boards of public institutions are constituted to make them more independent. Only when this is done, performance of public institutions will improve to the benefit of the public.
Surely, autonomous boards will make well informed, incorruptible and independent decisions. In this context, calls for the reduction of presidential appointing powers are justifiable. n