Today’s Editiorial for April 8: Boards system flawed

If the current results of the ongoing caycompass.com poll are any indication, most Cayman residents are looking at the findings of the recent Commission of Enquiry as a censure of Cabinet Minister Charles Clifford.

However, beside the conclusions made by the Commission of Enquiry with regard to the actions of Mr. Clifford, it also made a series of recommendations that the government and people of the Cayman Islands should seriously consider.

One of those recommendations deals with the way government boards are appointed.

Currently, Cabinet ministers appoint boards after an election. Enquiry Commissioner Sir Richard Tucker noted that political board appointees are expected to resign or be replaced en masse when there is a change of government.

In addition, although the People’s Progressive Movement has subscribed to a practice that none of its ministers chair statutory boards, the prohibition is not in law. This means a new government could, as has been done in the past, have ministers chair statutory boards.

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If a Cabinet minister chairs a board, people appointed by that minister to serve on the board might feel they have to support that minister in his decisions. Sir Richard suggested such board members would then serve little useful purpose.

Concluding that appointed board members need greater protection from political interference, Sir Richard suggested making appointments on a rotating, three-year fixed-term basis so only a minority of directors change if the government changes.

Although we certainly agree with Sir Richard’s points, we would suggest he only hit on part of the problem.

As Cayman continues to develop, not only are additional boards required, but the time demands on the individual board members expand. With only a finite number of Caymanians available, filling the boards with qualified and willing people becomes increasingly problematic, especially in a two-party political system.

Depending on the nature of the board, government has looked to Status Caymanians and, in some cases, even expatriates to fill the boards. While this is certainly a step away from tradition, there seems very little choice other than doing so.

We need people on government’s boards who are both capable and willing to sit on them, no matter what their nationality. In the past, being appointed to a government board has – at least in some cases – been seen as a reward for political support. As current board members have learned, board membership is more of a responsibility than a reward.

As Cayman continues to develop, not only are additional boards required, but the time demands on the individual board members expand. With only a finite number of Caymanians available, filling the boards with qualified and willing people becomes increasingly problematic, especially in a two-party political system.

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