Published On: Sun, Sep 8th, 2019

Ask Sjamira

Screening Process Cartoon

Op-Ed about the merits of recruitment in the selection process for supervisory board member candidates

By Hilbert Haar

I recently had to have a document certified by the Dutch consulate in Cambodia to prove that I am still alive. Pension funds like to know that you’re not six feet under while they keep forking over your pension; understandable. I found the honorary Dutch consul in Siem Reap and while I was on the way I thought: how the hell do you become an honorary consul?

The lady in question enlightened me. She had to submit an application to the King. Therefore, the appointment of honorary consuls is not in the hands of politicians. That thought pleased me and made me think of the supervisory boards of government-owned companies in St. Maarten.

What is happening with those boards – at least what was happening with them up to now – is politically motivated. We’ve seen plenty of new governments over the past decade and once in office they all did the same: they kicked out supervisory board members and replaced them with people willing to do their bidding. That this is good for the politicians but bad for the government-owned companies did not seem to bother anybody.

Now Prime Minister Leona Romeo-Marlin is changing the rules of the game by putting mandatory screening for prospective board members in place. That’s great, but there is still another step to be taken.

As a letter-to-the-editor writer to stmaartennews.com suggested, recruitment has to be part of the process. That would be a real game-changer because it would sideline politicians and it would guarantee that the best candidate gets the seat on the supervisory board.

Recruitment requires posting vacancy ads announcing that there are seats open at this, that or the other board. Such an ad ought to include a profile of the ideal candidate. If you don’t fit the profile, you cannot get the job. If a board is looking for a financial expert that position cannot be filled by a baker from Middle Region.

Simple, nah? It feels very much like a private sector approach, something that has been sorely lacking in government-owned companies and their politically motivated appointments to supervisory boards.

The recruitment process would be the first step towards an appointment because it is only about qualifications. Do you fit the profile of the candidate we are looking for?

And when a candidate has passed that test, the screening comes into play – and that is where things will get more complicated because, as the corporate governance code points out, supervisory board members must be able “to operate independently and critically from one another, as well as from the managing board and from whichever other partial interest that may be involved.”

In other words, board members should not be affiliated in any way with companies, organizations or individuals that could (potentially) benefit from a board-decision. Because everybody knows everybody in St. Maarten this aspect of the screening process could disqualify a lot of people who would otherwise be perfectly able to do the job.

Integrity is the keyword here and attorney Sjamira Roseburg, who recently stepped down as the chairlady of the BTP supervisory board is a perfect example of what this means. Roseburg left because the government refuses (so far) to remove Chester Euton (convicted for tax fraud) from the BTP-board. And while the government, in particular its responsible Minister Stuart Johnson, keeps turning a blind eye to this situation, Roseburg did what she had to do.

That Roseburg’s decision to resign is considered unique says a lot about the challenges St. Maarten is facing. Convicted parliamentarians stick to their seats, convicted civil servants are allowed to keep their jobs, a convicted former minister is able to secure a job in the inner circles of government as does at least one individual who failed the screening for a high-ranking job.

These examples show that integrity does not come natural to these people; but integrity does not seem to matter to the government all that much either. And that is the main concern we are facing right now. How do you measure integrity?

One suggestion: ask Sjamira Roseburg.

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Related articles:
Supervisory board members to be screened, says Prime Minister
Letter to the Editor: “Decision to screen supervisory board members commendable
Opinion: “Screening: a step in the right direction

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