Columnists

State agencies must remain accountable despite Covid woes

corona-prosp

Summary

  • Businesses are gradually resuming within the limits of the health protocols and keep running as best as they can.
  • It’s been tough for corporate boards too.
  • Many have used ingenuity to keep guiding from afar.

The economy is now partially open after more than six months of Covid-19 lockdown .

Businesses are gradually resuming within the limits of the health protocols and keep running as best as they can.

It’s been tough for corporate boards too. Many have used ingenuity to keep guiding from afar.

Some CEOs have done well in keeping their boards and technical committees meeting virtually. But I am bemused to discover that there could be some who have seized the Covid-19 limitations to shrewdly evade accountability.

INFORMATION GAPS

In a discussion with my friend Kitaka (not his real name), a board member in one of the State agencies, he narrated that his organisation has a fairly heavy property portfolio.

The problem, he posited, is that the portfolio has lots of information gaps.

But the board has had numerous challenges seeking information from technical officers who go to any length to justify the gaps.

But then there are transactions that need clarification through evidence, which should be in the files.

So Kitaka and colleagues were seeking the CEO’s intervention when the virus, and the associated travel limitations, struck.

After the initial shocks, the committee sought to have meetings virtually. Arrangements were made but little progress done.

Connections would be interrupted, internet would be poor or information said to be in bulky files that needed physical perusal.

So, Kitaka feels frustrated that while time has been of essence on the issues they need to resolve, the CEO’s office appears least bothered.

He and committee members are nonplussed. Could it be that they are digging into skeletons that needed to be let to lie? Could it be that the CEO and his minders are seizing the opportunity precipitated by Covid-19 to stonewall their interventions?

EASING RESTRICTIONS

Kitaka wonders how families can organise funerals, and churches congregate, to include up to 200 persons while corporate boards and their committees, which consist of fairly small numbers, cannot make suitable arrangements to meet up.

Meanwhile, time is limited and a new, perhaps compliant or laid-back board, may assume office. He thinks this is all deliberate and self-serving of the CEO and his cohorts.

Those responsible for evaluating the boards of State agencies must, therefore, use a sharp lens to interrogate their performance since the onset of coronavirus in mid-March.

While some corporate leaders may have gone out of their way to engage and navigate around the emerging challenges, others may have decided to evade accountability by shrewdly keeping boards from undertaking serious policy discussions.

This cultivates a perfect environment to get away with matters that may ultimately undermine public interest.