Afra Raymond was interviewed Wednesday 24th October 2018 by Rhoda Bharath, Wendell Stephen and Richard Ragoobarsingh on the Power Breakfast Show on Power 102 FM. The discussion was about the financial stability and sustainability of the State Enterprises and Public Utilities and their usefulness in our times. Audio courtesy Power 102 FM.
Two significant events in the previous week heralded a fresh round of Board Games, as we strive for higher standards of governance and accountability in our State Enterprises.
- The first of those events was the Privy Council ruling on Monday 19th February 2018, in the case which eTeck brought in 2011 against its former Board, chaired by Professor Ken Julien, related to alleged negligence for a US$5M investment gone awry.
- The second event was the publication of Transparency International’s 2017 Corruption Perception Index on Wednesday 21 February 2018, in which T&T improved its score from 35 to 41 and moved up the scale from 101st out of 176 countries in 2016 to 77th out of 180 countries in 2017. The average country score in the 2017 CPI was 43, so T&T is still below average, but the improvement in that perception has already been welcomed by the current administration.
SIDEBAR: The EFCL issue
The Board of EFCL was reported to have dismissed its CEO after he failed/refused to comply with their directions in a certain matter. There are allegations reported that the Cabinet attempted to direct the EFCL Board, which raises the perennial issue of the nature and extent of Cabinet authority over State Enterprises.
From both the Companies Act and the recent High Court/Appeal Court rulings in the eTECK matter, it seems clear to me that the Board of Directors have fundamental responsibility for the direction and control of the company. That is the legal position, but it seems that our fundamental political culture and conduct is in real conflict with notions of independent professional responsibility.
The State Enterprise sector is once again the subject of public concern on the good governance issues of accountability and transparency. Where does the power lie?
The two most striking issues emerging recently are the declaration of new accountability targets for State Enterprises and that the ‘EFCL Board fires CEO‘, reportedly in defiance of Cabinet directions.
The Accountability and Transparency Deficit is the first issue and it needs to be put into a timeline to illustrate the reality. Continue reading “Board Games again”
I previously estimated State debt to the construction industry in the $3.2-3.5 Billion range. I have since been reliably informed that construction industry claims against WASA are estimated to be in the $600M range, which of course would be subject to verification as discussed previously. My revised estimate (see table below) is now in excess of $3.8 Billion, compared to the JCC’s 27 July 2016 estimate of $2.3 Billion.
The size of my more recent estimate gives a severe picture of the State’s indebtedness to the construction industry, which is the sector that Central Bank research shows to be the largest employer in the national economy. Apart from that, the construction industry also has deep links to other important parts of the national economy such as quarrying; banking/finance/insurance; hardware stores; a range of manufacturers; transportation and so on. Continue reading “Property Matters – Pay Day? Part Two”
SIDEBAR: Correction on Court Case
With apologies to readers, in the previous article, I mistakenly named UTT as the SoE which had sued its Directors over allegations of a negligent 2005 investment, in fact it is eTeck which sued its Board. A lawsuit was launched by UTT on a similar series of allegations, but that was abandoned in July 2015.
Both those Boards were headed by Professor Ken Julien.
The previous article prompted a series of extremely interesting responses, so I will continue this examination of the State Controlled Agencies. That phrase includes State-owned Enterprises (such as UDECOTT, Caribbean Airlines and EFCL) and Statutory Agencies (like WASA, TTEC, CDA, PATT and HDC).
Some sharp objections were made to my comparison of the relation between the State, the Government and Citizens to a Company, its Board of Directors and its shareholders. I maintain that this is a valid comparison for us to reflect on the proper roles and responsibilities of the various public officials, but perhaps more importantly, the responsibilities of us citizens. Continue reading “Board Games – part 2”
The recent controversy over the dismissal of Dennise Demming as Chair of the Tourism Development Company (TDC) has sparked yet another round of debate on the role and operation of State-owned-Enterprises (SoEs).
Some of the issues which have arisen are –
- What is the purpose of these SoEs?
- How do the Boards of these SoEs get appointed?
- Are Board Directors of SoEs required to follow directions from the line Minister?
- Do Board Directors of SoEs have the right to get involved in managerial decisions such as hiring of staff and awarding of contracts?
- Do Ministers and Permanent Secretaries have the right to meet with or direct staff of the SoEs without the input of the Board of Directors?
- Given the recent Appeal Court decision in the eTeck case, what is the legal liability of Board Directors of SoEs?
“…The first responsibility that devolves upon you is the protection and promotion of your democracy. Democracy means more, much more, than the right to vote and one vote for every man and every woman of the prescribed age…”
—Dr Eric Williams, in his first Independence address, on 31st August 1962.
We are now at a place in which our political parties routinely subject us to misleading promises to win elections, followed by a sharp dose of reality as we realise which financiers are actually in charge of important public policy. This has been happening for a while now, but while we can criticise the various political parties, our gullibility is at the root of the problem. Many of us still believe in ‘Father Christmas’, so we remain stuck in a loop of high expectations leading to deep disappointment. Frustration and outrage appear to be key features of the ‘new normal’ we are all now living.
Obviously, we need a big shift in how the membership of the political parties hold their leaders accountable once office is attained, but there are other aspects of public affairs which need to change. Some say that once we choose not to vote, we have lost the right to criticise the actions of public officials, since we are effectively opting-out of the system. I believe it is important to remember that politics is not a single choice made by the voter at elections: politics is how we live our lives together and choose everyday.
Continue reading “Telling Truths”