Malawi: Parastatal Boards Score Lowly

2 August 2022

Some commentators in the country have said the performance of boards of directors for the various government parastatals in the last three years leave a lot to be desired and have called on the authorities to revise the appointment criteria.

The sentiments come following communication from the Controller of Statutory Corporations Peter Simbani to all concerned board chairpersons to prepare handover notes ahead of the expiry of their tenure of office on September 22, 2022.

Political Analyst Ernest Thindwa said yesterday that, for many years, board appointments have stressed on rewarding party loyalists and not capability. As a result, he said, most of them have failed to deliver within the context of the institutions they oversee.

Thindwa decried that government leadership oftentimes loses commitment to achieving development outcomes, saying it is the reason that most statutory corporations register underwhelming performance.

"Performance of the boards needs to be understood in particular political context. The more Boards are perceived as critical organs in delivering development outcomes, the more the appointment will reflect stress on the competence of the appointees to add value to the boards.

"In our case, political considerations for appointment into boards, particularly of chairpersons, have often taken precedence over merit needs," Thindwa said.

Executive Director for Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR), Michael Kaiyatsa, corroborated Thindwa, saying some outgoing boards were at the center of poor corporate governance and that their performance has been suboptimal.

He said Malawians expect the next crop of parastatal boards to be top notch individuals with right skills and expertise that will bring solutions to the current hunger, socio-economic and energy problems, among others.

Kaiyatsa also advised against political patronage and appeasement.

"The challenges the country is facing right now, require board members with the right skills and experience to deal with them and steer the boards in the right direction. The appointing authority should assemble top-notch board members capable of dealing with today's socio-economic challenges. It gives hope and confidence whenever you see professionals making it in the boards," he said.

Asked on how his office rates the performance of the outgoing crop of boards for the government institutions, Simbani said he would do so after receiving the handover documents from the chairpersons--which they have up to August 31, 2022 to submit.

In the reports, Simbani has asked for updates on key resolutions undertaken, ongoing projects, tasks that need attention and key outstanding matters.

"The various acts specify the tenure of office and we have boards whose tenure is within two to three years and will be expiring in September.

"And once I get the reports I have demanded I will be able to see how much they have done," he said.

Meanwhile, Simbani has said his office has written to all ministries to nominate to his office names that should be considered into the boards by July 31, 2022

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