First of all, I commend the Turks and Caicos Islands Government on taking the initiative to have a review of the statutory bodies. This was long overdue and so kudos to TCIG.
The review was carried out by the former Chief Financial Officer for the Turks and Caicos Islands Government, Mr. Stephen Turnbull. I will attempt not to repeat the detail findings of the review but rather provide you with some things for the Government and the Statutory Bodies to ponder and consider.
Should the salaries of the CEOs be the same for all statutory bodies?
Should the salaries and allowances of the statutory bodies be on par with the public sector given that the statutory bodies are an extension of the Government.
Should there be qualifications for Board members to sit on these Statutory Boards?
Should the appointment of Board members be bi-partisan?
Should Permanent Secretaries be on the boards?
Should some of the Boards be absorbed into the ministries in the Government?
Does the Govt have an oversight of the Boards?
Why don’t most Boards have a risk management policy?
I know it must be heart breaking for some of the hard working civil servants when they see that some staff from the Statutory Boards are being paid higher than them. However, the argument that the statutory bodies used is that they are competing with the private sector to recruit talented individuals and therefore these talented individuals should be paid for what they are worth. Perhaps TCIG needs to review its salary structure again because TCIG too has top talent and perhaps some of them are being underpaid. How should the government deal with this? The TCIG needs to invest in a capital program and revitalize the IT structure so that it can become more efficient and reduce some of the human resources so they can increase compensation to those that remain in the public sector. If we can bring in external labourers and pay them hefty salaries and allowances, then we should do the same thing with our qualified local staff.
I agree that some persons on Boards should not be there but some of our politicians believe they have to reward their supporters by putting them on boards. I wonder if most of the Boards were non-paying positions, how many persons would be committed and interested in serving on Boards. We really need to rethink the appointment and composition of the Boards. We do our country injustice by appointing partisan and non-qualified persons on Boards.
I agree that the permanent secretaries should not be on boards but rather a senior govt official from the departments. I think that the permanent secretaries are already overwhelmed, have a lot on their plate and therefore should not be on Boards.
Absorption of Boards into the ministries.
I believe having statutory boards is a great thing to do and so I do not support the principle that some of the statutory Boards should be absorbed in the ministries.Having liabilities on the Boards are not reasons to incorporate them in the ministry. Perhaps what needs to be done is a review of the staffing composition of some of these Boards. Maybe some of the boards are overstaffed while others are understaffed.
One of the Boards that was recommended to be eliminated was the National Health Insurance Board. While there is merit in sharing some of the functions such as compliance with the National Insurance Board but to suggest moving it into a ministry will not solve the problems. The problems will continue to take place. In fact the problems may escalate if there is not a dedicated team within the ministry to deal with them. The operational cost of the national Health Insurance is less than $2 million based on my recollection and so it is not material in the scope of all things.. The major problem with the NHIB is the overseas medical treatment program which is being utilized by all persons paying into the scheme. The Government will have to make a tough decision and just allow individuals to use the local facility for the fee that they pay to NHIB. The overseas treatment program may have to be restricted to the citizens only. This is costing the government far too much finances and liabilities. Another Board that was recommended to the join the ministry was the Community College. I believe the Community College should be in itself a separate body. It is the Government’s responsibility to ensure that its citizens are educated just like the UK does for its citizens. What is the benefit of incorporating the community college in the ministry?
Oversight of the Boards
I agree that given that the Boards are an extension of the Government, the Government should have more oversight of some of the Boards. However, politicians should not get involve in the day to day operations of the Board and therefore should not intervene. I think the ministers should be brief about the Boards operations by the Chairman on a monthly basis for information purposes only. On another note, I think those Boards (with the exception of NIB) that are not getting any subvention from the TCIG, should provide more excess funds to the Government thus reducing the burden on the Government and the citizens of the TCI.
I encourage all of you to take time and read the review as there are many other areas for us to consider.