Tue | Mar 26, 2019

RJRGLEANER-Don Anderson Poll | Majority want qualified persons on public boards– poll

Published:Friday | March 15, 2019 | 12:28 AMNickoy Wilson/Gleaner Writer

With an overwhelming 75 per cent of Jamaicans in the latest RJRGLEANER Group-commissioned Don Anderson poll decrying the appointment of unqualified persons to senior positions in government, civil-society advocate Carol Narcisse says that this indicates that most Jamaicans want to see good governance.

“Clearly, people are supportive of good governance, and that’s a real relief to see that there is strong support in the wider society for basic ethical standards, professional standards, and transparency,” Narcisse said.

Ten per cent of respondents said they had no problem with unqualified people being selected to senior government roles, while eight per cent were not sure. Seven per cent of the respondents were not aware.

Last year, then managing director of the government-owned National Energy Solutions Ltd (NESoL), Carolyn Warren, admitted to having six criminal convictions two days after resigning from the entity.

Fifty-eight per cent of Jamaicans believe that persons with a previously undisclosed criminal record be prevented from holding senior public office, leaving 28 per cent saying no, eight per cent not sure, and six per cent not aware.

“It’s the undisclosed that people recognise as the problem. So if you notice, they are not necessarily saying if you have a record and it’s disclosed, then, obviously, on a case-by-case basis, and depending on what the matter is. If when you were a teenager, you got held with a spliff, then you might have a record. But does that mean that should prevent you from, later on, as an adult, having a post in the public service? Maybe not,” Narcisse said yesterday in an interview with The Gleaner.

Also commenting on the results of the poll, executive director of anti-corruption watchdog National Integrity Action (NIA), Professor Trevor Munroe, said that persons’ unwillingness to disclose previous criminal convictions indicated unsuitability for public office.

“I agree with the majority view. Holding a senior public position is an office of trust, and if such a person cannot be trusted to disclose a previous criminal record on query, then clearly, they are inappropriately placed in a senior public office. This is especially important in a context where trust and confidence in public officials and institutions are important in our democratic system and have been constantly on the decline,” Munroe said.

With the poll indicating that 52 per cent of Jamaicans disagree with a newly elected government appointing mainly persons who favour their policies to boards, the NIA head outlined criteria that should determine appointment to government boards.

“Persons appointed to public boards need to have, first of all, the relevant skill set and competence set. Secondly, they need to have the appropriate experience, and, thirdly, they also need to be aligned with the government policy,” Munroe said.

He also said that new board policy guidelines introduced by Finance Minister Dr Nigel Clarke, regarding the retention of some board members during governmental transition, would help to maintain institutional knowledge and policy coherence.

nickoy.wilson@gleanerjm.com