Director of government board says board members face uphill challenges | Loop Cayman Islands

The content originally appeared on: Cayman Compass

Directors on government boards who aim to do the right thing often face many challenges. This is according to a director who shared his experiences with Loop News and who explained that such challenges arise for three main reasons: the state of the current laws or acts (Acts), “culture” at work and attempted “influence” by certain parties in various areas.

As to why the director joined a government board, he said that he “wanted to help the community and do something in the public’s interest.” However, some of the Acts are “so outdated” that their provisions make it difficult for members of the public to get the remedies they need or the drafting favours private interests more than public interests. Regarding this, he said that “urgent changes are needed in various Acts.”

When it comes to the execution of board decisions and delegating of tasks by the board to chief executive officers of a public authority, he said that sometimes the culture at work hinders the execution of board directives. By this, he means that there are those actors who, on an ongoing basis, ignore instructions or delay implementation of instructions “either because those directives are contrary to the actors’ personal interests, they simply do not agree to the decisions on a subjective level or they just don’t happen to like whatever government is in power at the relevant time.”

He went on to explain that, when these delays happen, they are perfectly executed such that they can cause public relations nightmares for the relevant board (as matters “appear” to be unaddressed and “worsening” in the eyes of the public). The situation can even push some board members to resign for perceived lack of progress by the public authority to serve the interests of members of the public.

Notwithstanding the pressure to resign, the director shared that there may be some elements of governance and provisions of the Penal Code which may offer some help. For example, he said that “one can always implement job performance measures where employees are objectively evaluated based on what they have achieved and where the board puts in place rewards for achievements of chief executive officers and enforces consequences for failings.”

Regarding the Penal Code, he said that it appears to contain some relevant wording that “a person who wilfully disobeys any law by doing any act which such law forbids, or by omitting to do any act which such law requires to be done, and which concerns the public or any part of the public, commits an offence and, unless the law provides some other penalty, is liable to imprisonment for two years.” In his opinion, “if members of the public service working for public authorities are subject to this rule, then they could be unknowingly committing offences under the Penal Code for blocking decisions in the public interest.”

Exacerbating the challenges is the tendency for some members of parliament to purport to give instructions to employees of public authorities. As the director explained, “this is not what the Acts are intended for.”

By this, he means that members of parliament generally do not have any power under the Acts to give instructions to individual employees of a public authority or statutory authority and that instructions must either come from the board of directors of the public authority or via a directive of the Cabinet, not an individual member of parliament.

Commenting on this scenario, the director said that “it can be dangerous when this happens… when a political interest purports to take priority over a board decision or a board directive… the outcome here would be the achievement of a personal interest rather than the public’s interest… any such purported behaviour must be resisted and curbed.”