MERITOCRACY V/S PATRONAGE APPOINTMENTS : A brief review on nominations and appointments in Mauritius

This article is a continuation of my previous research on Public sector Governance but at a further stage to briefly look at how are nomination and appointments made within our political arena.
Notably it is understood that a structure is meant to be in place to improve or maintain good governance by selecting the right people to serve on the board, i.e. directors, chief executives and advisors  who have the high calibre, competencies and personal attributes to effectively drive corporate performance by ensuring integrity, transparency and accountability at all time. These fellas are meant to make significant and rational decisions that impact on our economy, be it social and cultural well-being and to ensure effective and efficient delivery of critical services such as education, health care, policing, workers protection, public utilities and so on.
We are all aware that in Mauritius there exists no systematic system to recruit directors and executives in the public sector. Engagements are made or recommended by ministers based on whether the nominees are affiliated with the party in power, family ties (Backing as known in Mauritius) or other political factors. We are also aware that their performance cannot be measured as would be in the private sector simply because their performance is not driven by factors such as return on investment, market share, industry benchmarks or share value. They should however understand the responsibilities and expectations of directorship and be educated about the unique facets of serving in the public sector
Do such patronage appointments provide the right person or high calibre leadership? Patronage appointment is not a new concept. Originated in Italy, patrons were exhibiting power and control in making appointment and the appointees were getting prestige and public recognition through the association with that patron. In 1881 the US President James Garfield was assassinated because he failed to give his assassin a patronage appointment. Arguably in Mauritius, as we have seen, political parties do appoint a party supporter in a high and significant position as a reward for their past service rendered or loyalty and continued support. Because of the Ministerial control over these recruitments we have recently witnessed an undesirable skill mix which did not take account of meritocracy, hence white-collar frauds and corruptions did crop up to make the headlines in the media locally and internationally. This is so simply because they failed to understand the responsibilities and expectations of directorship within the public sector.
In this modern economy it is a requisite that public sector prerogative should reform their appointment practice to ensure that executives and directors are selected for their capabilities and commitment to effective governance. In the UK there is an independent Commissioner for Public Appointment whose duties and responsibilities is to ensure recruitment is carried out as per the criteria established for the position. By all means this may not eliminate patronage but would at least ensure a recruitment process which identifies the competencies required to build an effective board. An ineffective recruitment process will undoubtedly lack the requisite mix of competencies to the detriment of the department and the public at large. Moreover an ineffective board may actively work against the best interest of the public through ignorance or by pursuing a personal or political agenda to enrich their pocket.
Roshi Bhadain – ‘Ministre des Services financiers et de la Bonne gouvernance’ has committed to create a competency-based recruitment process and practice in Mauritius this year. But the problem remains that the underlying recruitment process in most jurisdictions (government departments) is not structured to ensure competency-based appointments. Recent appointments in core positions show us contrary to his commitment unless they are justifiable. Perhaps it would be relevant in the spirit of good governance to publish the names, terms and full biographies of all the recruited executives and directors in all public sector departments in the government website. In doing so, the public and other interested parties can review and assess whether the board members appear to have the requisite skills, experience and competencies for the position they hold. This will show transparency and accountability in each department.
It is high time for the government to look deeply and carefully at its own process of recruitment and nomination. They may not have known the criteria to use in the past but this is not the case today. A competency–based approach would make strategic appointments bring results, government would get high profile and high calibre leaders and decision-making skills to enhance the performance in the public sector. A competency-based recruitment would also open the doors for new talented directors and executives to expand the pool of experiences and use as a tool to capitalise on opportunities to create wealth, provide the required level of service and improve quality of life. This in turn, will indubitably help to set high standards for corporate governance practices generally in Mauritius.

Commentaires

Well said, this is actually what has been happening in Mauritius for a very long time. I like the proposals made in this text but would the government listen to you Mr Harris?