Walker defends chairing State boards

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

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DANVILLE Walker has defended his chairmanship of the boards of five State-run entities, pointing out that he is not in charge of their day-to-day operations as his role is to ensure the implementation of policy and the execution of corporate plans.


Walker, who is managing director of the Jamaica Observer, was responding to social media criticisms about the number of boards he has been invited to head. They include Caymanas Track Limited (CTL), National Environment and Planning Agency, Registrar General’s Department, Trade Board, and Jamaica Customs.


"You’re usually just dealing with one person – which is the CEO (chief executive officer). So you’re essentially managing the relationship between the board and CEO in terms of policy. What you’re doing is evaluating the CEOs ability to implement policy. The minister gives you the Government’s policy direction and you convey that view to the board (and) the CEO. So, if I’m interfacing with six boards, I’m dealing with six CEOs to see how well they are carrying out the expectations of an Administration," he outlined in an interview.


Responding to the question of why the Government chose him to head these boards, Walker said: "I think that it comes from my experience in the public sector. There are not many people in the private sector who have the amount of experience I have in the public sector."


The former commissioner of Customs, under whose leadership a number of reforms took place or were initiated, noted that chairing a State board is not that difficult once a person can manage their schedule and keep abreast of diverse issues.


"It sort of suits me, because I have a capacity to deal with different issues at the same time," he said, adding, "It is a lot of work; it usually takes up your free time. I don’t find that the board [assignments] takes away any time that I spend in my substantive job."


Walker made it clear that heading a board is no walk in the park and that a chairman or members do not have influence over the agencies as many people assume. "You can’t issue jobs to people or anything like that. Most people won’t know you’re there until there is a problem and you’re called to a microphone to explain something. Your reputation can end up in tatters," he said, pointing out that chairing a board is therefore not a trivial matter. "It’s not something to be taken lightly. There is a serious responsibility," he remarked.


He observed, too, that it is not a salaried service, which is another misconception. "No one will make any money from being paid a stipend. Last time I was on a board I was paid the princely sum of $5,000 per month. It’s not about that (money). A number of persons even sign over their cheques to their favourite charity," he said.


At the same time, he said, the work is often tedious: "If you work."


"As a chairman you’re lucky when you have some board members who really dive in and invest themselves and do help you with the work," he said.


Walker noted that the appointments are nothing new as he has served on several State boards in the past, including the Statistical Institute of Jamaica, Bureau of Standards Jamaica, the Rural Agricultural Development Authority, Port Authority of Jamaica, the Conch Quota Committee, Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management, and CTL.


He urged people who are able to serve to not shy away as it is a rewarding experience that presents an opportunity to learn about unfamiliar industries and new areas of Government.

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