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Story Highlights

  • The Government is making progress in improving the performance and management of public enterprises.
  • This is highlighted in a study done by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), which was presented to Senior Policy makers and senior executives of the Government by a delegation from the bank.
  • The members, who are currently in the island, will end their visit on July 24.

The Government is making progress in improving the performance and management of public enterprises.

This is highlighted in a study done by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), which was presented to Senior Policy makers and senior executives of the Government by a delegation from the bank. The members, who are currently in the island, will end their visit on July 24.

Deputy Financial Secretary with responsibility for Public Enterprises in the Ministry of Finance and Planning, Mrs. Ann-Marie Rhoden, told a JIS ‘Think Tank’ on July 21, that one of the steps taken by the Government that has resulted in the positive ranking is to reform the structure of Boards that govern public bodies.

She noted that several changes in that regard will be implemented this year, including: a code of conduct for Directors;  development of a database of potential Directors, which will assist Ministers to select appropriate persons to serve on Boards; a performance evaluation exercise, as well as a competency profile for Boards, to assist Ministers in the selection process.

“The fact that we would have developed a database of potential Directors is already saying that we are, as a country, recognizing the need for more transparency in the selection of Directors; and the fact that we are developing a competency profile framework…mean that we are moving in the direction to have more efficient working Boards,” Mrs. Rhoden asserted.

Meanwhile, former Minister of State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs) in New Zealand, Hon. Richard Prebble, said there were several positive findings in the ADB study on Jamaica’s management of public enterprises. He added that there were also a few recommendations for the country to implement.

“Jamaica has the best structured and formulated policy on privatization, the report says.  We have no improvements to suggest to you, except to continue to implement. So, it ranges from some things we think you can do better…others we feel you are doing very well,” Mr. Prebble said.

In the report, the ADB said “to achieve sustainable improvement in SOE performance, Jamaica must strengthen its legal, governance and monitoring frameworks.”

For her part, Co-Author of the ADB study – ‘Finding Balance 2014: Benchmarking the performance of state-owned enterprises in Island Countries’, Laure Darcy, said the report also recommended that Jamaica establish a central oversight function for public enterprises.

She said implementing these reforms will encourage more private sector investments and the creation of a broader economic space for growth.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Rhoden pointed out that many of the recommendations are consistent with the direction in which Jamaica is progressing.

She said the Government has recognized the value of public enterprises and has therefore made significant progress in implementing measures over the years to improve the Governance systems and the framework within which public enterprises operate.

Mrs. Rhoden highlighted the work done by the Thorburn Committee in the 1980s, which resulted in guidelines for financial management issued to public enterprises.

“Prior to that, all that existed was the Financial Administration and Audit (FAA) Act, which did not address the issues that pertain to public enterprises in the way that they were formed,” she noted.

Mrs. Rhoden  said the other step taken to improve governance of public enterprises was the promulgation of the Public Bodies Management and Accountability Act, which was the first piece of Governance legislation in this hemisphere.

“We have been using that governance legislation to change attitudes and behaviours within our public bodies and in fact we have been seeing some change,” she added.

Mrs. Rhoden said in 2011 and again in 2012, Parliament gave approval for the Corporate Governance Framework.

“That framework outlined a number of best practices that would assist our public bodies to (strengthen)  their performance…and we’ve been working with that corporate governance framework to improve corporate governance outcomes,” she noted.

Mrs. Rhoden informed that since then a number of regulations have been developed and amendments made to the Act, “and today there is a Financial Distribution Policy, which applies to entities that are formed under the Companies Act and those formed under their own statute.”

“Last year we collected just about $1.6 billion in financial distributions from our public enterprises, and that compares with something like $50 million, prior to the 2012 introduction of the Financial Distribution Policy,” she added.

Mrs. Rhoden pointed out that changes have also been seen in the attitudes and behaviours of Public Enterprise Boards, with even more positive outlook for the future.

“Boards are now becoming more conscious about what they need to do, whose interest they represent and I have great hope for what may come in the future,” she said.

This is the first time Jamaica is participating in the ADB study, which is in its fifth year of publication.