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Phillips highlights need to strengthen corporate governance

Thursday, August 16, 2018

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KINGSTON, Jamaica — Opposition Leader, Dr Peter Phillips said in order to remove the partisan political stranglehold on the Board of Directors of public bodies, there is need to overhaul the method of selection.

Phillips, who was speaking at the official dinner of the Caribbean Organization of Supreme Audit Institutions' (CAROSAI) 30th Anniversary Conference at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel yesterday, said while the architecture for ensuring good governance and accountability has achieved some success, recent breaches highlight some of the deficiencies in the current oversight arrangements.

According to a release from the PNP, he highlighted some of the breaches in the areas of administrative rules; procurement rules and established protocols for the hiring and firing of staff, as were shown in the PetroJam saga, and with other agencies that fall under the Ministry of Science, Technology Energy and Mining (MSTEM).

Phillips emphasised that these breaches seem to flow from increasing partisan, political considerations in the administration of public bodies, which facilitate corruption, the diversion of public funds, and weaken public trust in government.

Dr Phillips says there needs to be a deliberate effort to strengthen the mechanisms to ensure the protection of taxpayers' money and integrity of the systems and services.

“The inclusion of appropriate skill sets, including human resources expertise and accounting/financial expertise that is applicable to the particular enterprise must be mandatory for all public boards. These boards must also include an accountable officer from the ministry under which the portfolio falls. The specific responsibility of this member would be to ensure that the Public Sector Financial Regulations are adhered to,” Phillips was quoted as saying.

The Opposition Leader also noted that a major deficiency in the governance architecture and accountability framework for the public bodies lies in the area of Financial Management and Accountability, the release said.

He said the lack of adequate human and material resources militate against the effective functioning of the office of the Auditor General.

“Auditor General's office is responsible for assessing the effectiveness of public financial management systems and the levels of compliance with policies and guidelines within the various ministries, departments and agencies, and public bodies.”

In addition to the legal architecture for accountability and good governance, Phillips said civil society has a major role to play.

“The members of civil society must insist on transparency, hold the government to acceptable standards of ethical conduct, maintain vigilance through attendance at public sittings of the Parliament and strengthen the role of the media as the watchdog and 'the voice of the people,” he continued.

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