Tuesday, Jul 23rd

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Editorial - Joint approach

Government is busy changing a national decree to make the entire cabinet rather than its individual members responsible for Government-owned companies, parliamentarians were told during a committee meeting with Finance Minister Martin Hassink (see Thursday paper). The intention had been announced in the governing programme of the UP-led coalition, but no further explanation was offered.

The document did say that the Finance Minister would be appointed for the execution of any decisions for the approval of the budgets and financials of public companies and foundations. That ministry’s stated objectives include the implementation of a study to determine the level of efficiency at which these corporations operate and to what extent their profits could be utilised within the adjusted tax structure.

The collective responsibility system goes back to the days of the Executive Council when this was the case for all governmental matters. There are those who believe that worked better, because the then-commissioners could not hide behind the “it’s not my portfolio” argument.

One of the consequences of the planned adjustment is that proposed appointments at the entities concerned are no longer to be handled by just one minister, but rather the whole team. This may reduce the chance of politically-inspired hiring practices, although there is, of course, already a safeguard provided by the Corporate Governance Council (CGC).

At the same time, one has to wonder whether fear of being held personally accountable for possible wrongdoings at the companies and foundations might have something to do with the new policy. After all, that is a real risk in light of modern legislation in this regard.

Of course, the latter could lead to speculation the Gumbs cabinet actually suspects certain irregularities, but that would be stretching it. For now the measure appears to be simply a step preventing individual ministers from having to deal on their own with potentially thorny issues involving these entities, in favour of a joint approach.