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Aug 8, 2007

Social Security seeks better corporate governance

Story PictureAfter the report of the Senate Select Committee investigating the financial affairs of the Social Security Board sent the managers of the fund into crisis mode, the board’s directors have been working to rebuild S.S.B.’s reputation in the eyes of the public. Part of the official response has been sessions in policy making, transparency and integrity for employees and for the past three days, board members and staff have been participating in such a workshop at the Biltmore Hotel in Belize City. The event is being facilitated by regional expert Dr. Valda Henry and as we found out this morning, S.S.B. is keen to learn from the mistakes of the past.

Rene Gomez, President, N.T.U.C.B.
“We are learning here about more accountability, transparency, trust within its members, the staff and the public as a whole. Also, we are also learning about the role of the minister, the role of the chairman and how they need to be governed and how they need to be managed themselves. So we are being educated in the process of what Social Security is all about, and how it ought to be running and how in other countries it’s being run well.”

Janelle Chanona
“So you think the board before didn’t know these things?”

Rene Gomez
“Well what happened in the past, and I like to talk about the past, is that board members didn’t know their duties and responsibilities. What happened is that they were not trained to be directors when it comes to accountability, when it comes to confidentiality, when it comes to their duties and responsibilities to the board and to the public as a whole being appointed to be directors for such a big organisation as Social Security.”

Dr. Valda Henry, Corporate Governance Facilitator
“Social Security, we can’t get away from it, is a creature of government, it’s a statutory body where the appointment will always by the government even when the nominations come from the Trade Union Congress or it comes from the employers’ body, the appointment comes from the minister. What has to be important, what the focus of the public has to be is in ensuring that the persons who are nominated and who are appointed to the board are people of integrity, people with competence, experience and the expertise, and who have independence of mind so that they govern in the sole best interest of the Social Security. That has to be the emphasis and the focus.”

“That when it comes to investment, Social Security Board must adopt what I call a portfolio management framework to invest in, that you don’t just invest on an ad hoc basis because a recommendation has come or an application has come for a particular investment. It is how does that investment fit in terms of the vision for the Social Security, of where it wants to go, but also too how does it fit in terms of the overall portfolio that we already hold.”

Michel Chebat, Chairman, Social Security Board
“I don’t think anybody can disguise the fact of the importance that Social Security plays in the macro-economy of this country and so that we cannot just move along without being conscious of what government’s economic policies are. I think we have to live within that framework to a certain extent, but essentially at the end of the day, the decisions of the board are decisions that are made in the best interest of Social Security Board and I can assure you of that.”

Janelle Chanona
Would that be your message to the public?

Michel Chebat
“That is my message to the public and I will challenge the public to investigate all the decisions that have been made since my tenure as chairman and they will see that those decisions, when you look at the due diligence that have gone into making those decisions, you will see that they are not as a result of political interference or influence.

The three day workshop on corporate governance ended this afternoon.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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