Today’s Editorial July 18: Ministers as board chiefs

Should Cabinet Ministers be allowed to chair government-appointed boards?

Like any issue, there are pros and cons.

On the one hand, someone from government needs to be present at those board meetings and involved in the decision making and voting process.

If the minister in question has a permanent secretary who isn’t sympathetic to his cause, his desires may not be made clear to other board members.

Too, the minister could have expertise in that board’s area of concern whereas a government employee may not.

To make a blank statement that Cabinet Ministers should not be on government boards would be a silly thing for us to do.

It is absolutely vital that Cabinet Ministers take part in government boards, especially those that fall under their ministries.

The issue being raised now is whether Cabinet Ministers should serve as heads of those boards, making weighty decisions instead of just offering expert opinion.

Ministers do sit in Cabinet just about every Tuesday and determine policy that shapes the way the Cayman Islands is to function and go forward.

Armed with that knowledge, they attend meetings of their respective boards to offer input so that the board members as a whole can make decisions and vote based on discussion.

Board chairs should be good facilitators and be able to run a good meeting, including planning and agenda setting. A good chair can deal with conflict, place his or her own issues on the backburner, be a consensus builder, respect confidentiality and be able to address conflict of interest.

We’re not saying that Cabinet Ministers aren’t capable of being good board chairs. There have been many Cabinet Ministers who were effective heads of boards.

But as with any board chairman, there should never be any conflict of interest, be it real or perceived.

It is interesting to note that the issue has been raised while talks continue on developing a new constitution for the Cayman Islands.

It’s just one of many issues that need to be examined and addressed, one way or the other.

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