The proposal to have the Treasury Cabinet Secretary handpick commissioners for the Privatisation Commission, which is to be renamed Privatisation Authority, is repugnant to its independence.
Faisal Abass, the commission’s chairman, warns that such a move could end up having persons who only act as rubberstamps of Treasury’s decisions since the new proposed changes also give the exchequer more powers in selling public enterprises.
The Treasury is expected to be at the front line of new privatisations by initiating the process, including formulating a new sale plan which the Cabinet shall approve.
It will be a blatant affront to the commission's independence and accountability if Treasury were to do all these unchecked. It would be better if the commission is folded up or domiciled as a department under Treasury.
The current law under review requires the Treasury to appoint members to the commission through a competitive process and approved by the National Assembly.
With the elimination of Parliament’s role, the Privatisation Commission wants the appointment of members to the authority to take a competitive process to maintain the entity’s autonomy.
The hiring of the commissioners needs to adhere to Article 10 of the Constitution, which calls for the participation of the public, inclusiveness, non-discrimination, integrity, and transparency.
While past delays in appointing members of the Privatisation Commission may have informed the proposed changes to the law, they don't negate the need to protect its independence and ensure it is accountable to the public.