Given the recent spate of events within many of government parastatals; their performances and those of the Board of Directors and the extent of costs, administrative lapses, the beleaguered Botswana Tourism Board (BTO) have been splashed in the media headlines for their questionable board appointments, practices and their subsequent sub-standard performance. These events have caused BTO immeasurable damage. There is an urgent need for accountability and transparency. Board appointments should be relooked into with the view to enhance capacity and autonomy.
As an organisation becomes more time-honoured, it stands to reason that when members of the Board are due for rotation or retirement, the Board will be required to consider which ‘components’ of the board functioning must be retained for the purpose of maintaining its continuity and enhancing the creation of value, and which components should be replaced (or sought after) in the expertise, skills and experience of candidates for the Board. In this regard, whilst it is critical to observe and protect the interests of the organisation, selecting and/or removing a Board member tends to become highly charged where personal emotions become underpinned by self-interest which overshadows the interests of the organisation.
Botswana for example, which has been mired by a number of highly questionable leadership decisions being taken by the Boards of a number of state-owned companies, one needs to consider whether or not the people being appointed to Boards are truly fit and proper, and are indeed the right people to serve as Board members.
Given the speed in which the world demands change — and fuelled by an increased awareness for good governance practices — most boardrooms today are acutely aware of their many challenges to balance their collective and individual performance against international best practices. Indeed, a Board that does not have the ideal composition of directors, including the appropriate diversity, experience, knowledge and skills, is bound for certain tragedy. Whilst there may be no perfect board, having a group of carefully chosen Board Members who are bound by common goals, and who are capable of remaining ethically steadfast in volatile conditions, is key to the organisation’s ultimate success and longevity.
With this in mind, many Board Members may have and do have an impressive looking curriculum vitae, however their real worth is only discovered once they are put to the test in the boardroom, and their endurance is tested when they are presented with one crisis after another.
A good Board of Directors is one that is comfortable talking about any issue; be these matters relating to the strategic direction of the organisation, right through to directors who are no longer adding value to the board (including those who have brought reputational damage upon the organisation). The Board must also be capable of withstanding political pressure to drive an organisation in a particular direction. Of course talking about these types of issues is one thing, it’s altogether something else when the Board takes decisive action to rectify any unwanted situation where the organisation is protected from harm.
The BTO saga and many past it must act as a reminder to give PEEPA unlimited power to compose Boards as was initially intended. Boards that must go political vetoing have not been a game changer.