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Performance matters when it comes to Govt. Board of Directors

On the front page of the Sunday Samoan, a “confidential” Cabinet paper leaked to your newspaper revealed whom Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa’ilele Malielegaoi and his group of Ministers have endorsed to be Board Directors and Chairpersons for 2020.

It’s hard to understand why the appointment of Directors of public boards is “confidential” but that’s perhaps a story for another day.

What’s important is that you, taxpayers and members of the public, now have an idea of who is behind a lot of the decision making that affect you on a daily basis when it comes to Government matters.

At first glance, the appointees make up an impressive list of who is who of Samoa, from the business community, churches to the village level. As if the ruling Human Rights Protection Party government wasn’t already full of laui’a, the choice of Directors and their Chairpersons will only enhance such a reputation. It should also strengthen the performance of the Government, at least through the 23 state owned enterprises identified in the Cabinet paper.

Not everyone would agree on the value of these Boards of Directors. There are different schools of thought with regards to the question of just how important they are and whether they are really necessary, especially for such a small country like Samoa. Let’s park that here for now.

But say we approach the issue from the lens that they are an important part of good governance, having Board members with the right experience, skills and motives, is critical. This is especially given the importance and relevance of public sector entities to the economy, social wellbeing and how people live in general.

There is no doubt that with the revelation of who is on the Boards come a heightened sense of expectation from members of the public in terms of results and service delivery. They should. After all they are the ones footing the bill for all these extra officials, millions of tala in expenses too.

Besides, what all this should ultimately lead to better outcomes for the Government which should be reflected in the way ordinary people live their lives. Let’s not kid ourselves here; with an extra 127 Board Directors on the payroll for the Government, that is a lot of money. Millions actually.

In Samoa today, concerns have already been publically expressed about the cost of the government machinery. There is a strong feeling that for such a small country, the cost of running the government is a lot more expensive than it needs to be.

They are legitimate concerns. Let’s take a look for instance; aside from Cabinet Ministers and Boards of Directors, there are Associate Ministers, Chief Executive Officers, Deputy Chief Executive Officers, Assistant Chief Executive Officers and many other senior public servant roles who are paid exorbitant salaries plus perks.  

But it doesn’t end there. Out there in the villages, all village Mayors are now on the Government’s payroll. They are leaders in the village advisory groups who are also paid for by the Government, including women representatives and so forth.

Again, the question has to be asked, for such a small country, are all these public officials necessary? Is this the best way to spend money, which in many cases, money we don’t have? And how much of these appointments and positions are politically motivated and geared towards making sure the H.R.P.P. maintains power?

As far as the Government will argue, there is nothing illegal about these roles. Which is true. But just because it’s legal doesn’t make it right.

Going back to that list in the Sunday Samoan, everyone will have an opinion.

In a small country like Samoa, one will easily be able to connect the dots. Just from a quick glance, we can see many stories of conflicts of interest and the like. It’s all about the perception and if you know this country well, it’s easy enough to work out where and why certain things happen.  

Which perhaps explains the “confidential” nature of the document; they obviously did not want you to know. But now that you do, where do you come in? What is your role?

Well, your job and our role is to hold them accountable.

At the end of the day, these officials exist to create an environment conducive of a growing economy, one where members of the public flourish and benefit. They are there to advance the interests of the people they represent, not of their own. In other words, performance matters.

And where, when do you have your say? The next General Election is not far away.

Stay safe Samoa, God bless!

 

 

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