There have been sweeping changes to a number of government Boards. This is to be expected since we have a new government in place and it is the prerogative of the new government to appoint its representatives to the Boards.
Once the life of the Boards has expired, their membership can be changed provided that there are no statutory prohibitions to such changes. For example, there are some Boards in which holders of certain offices have to be appointed. In other cases, other organizations have to appoint nominees to Boards.
It does seem a little strange that the life of so many Boards had come to an end around the same time. But it could also be that the life of these Boards had long ended and were extended by fiat and therefore all the government is doing is appointing new Boards.
These Boards are indeed new. There have been sweeping changes. When you look at the composition of Boards certain things are immediately striking and this has allowed for certain criticisms.
There has been a criticism that the Boards should have been more balanced in terms of youth, experience, gender, ethnicity and technical skills. This is something that the new government would perhaps wish to examine.
It has to be mindful that people will draw their own inferences from these appointments and therefore they should ensure that negative inferences cannot be drawn since as one of the first major acts of the new government, it will reflect on the image of the government and shape people’s perceptions of what is likely to come in the future.
Another criticism that has been made is the lack of continuity. There have been wholesale changes in most of these Boards. This is not a something that should happen because a Board has to have persons with previous experience so as to guide the new Board through its processes.
When you cut out most of those who were there before this affects continuity and the functioning of the Board. The changes in the new Boards were far too sweeping. Problems will arise because the new members do not have a good awareness of what went before. Greater attention should have been paid to continuity.
Yet another criticism has to do with the fact that some persons on Boards are in a clear conflict of interest. You cannot have interested parties involved on Boards. This is a no-no on any Board and is something that needs to be looked at very carefully.
Finally of course there is disgusting feature of Ministers heading Boards in institutions over which they are required to exercise oversight and ministerial responsibility. This should never have been allowed to happen. I really do not understand how a government that promised change is doing the same thing that the previous administration did.
You cannot have accountability in this way. A Minister should not chair a Board over which he exercises ministerial responsibility or oversight. It is wrong and it is a misstep that should be rectified.