The politicising of DBSI Board of Directors

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Under the cover of State of Emergency and the Emergency Powers Regulations, when critics are silenced by the possibility of being investigated by the police on the say so of the Office of Prime Minister or being terminated the Membership of the Board of Directors of the Development Bank of Solomon Islands (DBSI) ends up being politicized.  It is the hope of the nation given what happened to the former DBSI, that the governance of this newly resurrected financial institution would have in its board of directors, members that would add value to the transparent and accountable governance management of the Development Bank and that Board membership would be gender-balanced.  There is no shortage of experienced nationals in the country both women and men that would add value to this financial institution. It is therefore quite surprising that the process of nominations is nonexistence SOE was obscure and not transparent.  Solomon Islands has former National Provident General Managers, former Governors of the Central Bank, deputies and others of equally deserving experiences that could have been appointed to the Board. The Board we now have are of people with very little experience let alone being independent of politically affiliated persons to the current Executive Government.  Transparency Solomon Islands calls for the replacement of these politically affiliated Directors and bring in a Board that will develop the Bank into what it is being set up for, ensuring it is gender-balanced if women’s’ financial needs are to be addressed.

Of the five members of the Board of Directors three are political appointees, one is a member who lost the National General Election and through the revolving door syndrome is appointed to the Board.  There is only one that has come from the top level of financial institution management.  This is not enough and is not a combination of knowledge, experience etc. for a newly resurrected Development Bank. The Independence of the Board is questionable let alone free of political interference and influence in their decision making and overall operation of the Bank.

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Robson Djokovic a political appointee and a non-citizen within the office of the Prime Minister. Mr. John Muria Jnr formerly served as Special Secretary to the Prime Minister (SSPM) prior to being politically appointed to the post of Attorney General (AG). These two board directors in particular are not independent and therefore need to be replace by experienced and more politically independent appointments. The Bank can hire a lawyer of its own like other SOEs have done therefore the appointment of Mr. John Muria Jnr is unwarranted.

Mr. Robson Djokovic is the current Chief of Staff in the office of the Prime Minister, paid out of public funds but is also the current president of Our Party the largest party in the current coalition forming the Executive Government under the Democratic Coalition Government for Advancement (DCGA).

The issue of Conflict of interest is likely to surface or when it surfaces, in the case of Mr. John Muria he will be in a very difficult position. Especially in cases where the government may have any controversial issues with DBSI. The Board of Directors decision is going to be problematic.  Would it be able to make the best decision on its own as an independent body? Even in the case that they do, integrity and trust issues arise.

The other issues are with regard to Muria and Djokovic being business partners, owning Clandestine Entertainment Limited, it is of serious concern they could compromise the independence of the board, since both will have a   common interest. Not only that but the issue of inside trading could also arise seeing that they are business partners.

The five   interim board members are Robson Tana Djokovic, John Osmand Muria, Trevor Manemahaga, Gane Alva Simbe [former deputy governor of Central Bank] and Andrew Manepora’a [former politician].

Trevor Manemahaga is a political appointee in the office of the Prime Minister might also compromising his position in the DBSI board.

Hence, three out of five members of the board are working on a full-time job under the generosity of the Prime Minister and DCGA.  For them to be independent of political influence and be the source or avenue where political interference into the operation of the bank is not unlikely. There will be a tendency for the decisions of the bank to favour special group interests than what it is established for.  It is time to change and do things for the common good of Solomon Islands and its people for once.  Covid 19 has shown us that we need to change, be transparent and accountable to our people. No more bias decisions.

While TSI agrees with the membership of Gane Alva Simbe and to a certain extent Andrew Manepora’a, because of their experience in the financial institutions sector it calls for the immediate replacement of the other three member with more impartial, experienced members including women.

The Board of DBSI is established by Section 10 of the DBSI Act 2018 as the bank’s governing body. The Board is responsible for ensuring that the powers and functions of the DBSI are exercised in an efficient and effective manner, consistent with the Act.

However, the case of the current board is questionable whether they will ensure the functions of DBSI are exercised in an effective manner consistent with the act, given the fact that two members are business partners and the other with no relevant experience in this sector.

The current board was appointed as interim, but according to latest information received by TSI the members will not change.  The explanation given by DBSI was, that they need to implement the strategic plan of DBSI, so any changes to the board of directors is assumed will not deliver/implement the strategic plan. Transparency Solomon Islands does not believe so.  The bank needs people with vast experience, dedication and not politically affiliated to be Board Members.  The track record of implementation for the other three members of the government’s programme has been wanting in many areas. 

TSI therefore called on the government to change the board membership by removing three of the five whose employment are politically affiliated to the current executive government.

DBSI has been long dead as a result of political meddling in its decisions and management and operation. The efforts to resurrect it again being subject to political influence eroding public trust. Lack of transparency in appointing neutral people, who will uphold the independence of the board is not a good start with regarding assuring our nation that things have changed and that political government is committed to change.

On the DBSI website, it says “following the re-establishment, DBSI now operates under three key building blocks, one of which is not to repeat the development bank’s past mistakes. DBSI now has stronger governance measures in place under the new DBSI Act 2018 and the Act demands more independence from political interference for its operations.” Transparency Solomon Islands disagrees.

Three out of five members’ employment status are political appointees, the current interim board of directors is not politically independent.

The current Board is therefore unlikely to efficiently deliver its strategic plan for the Bank through the Board is not free from political interference for its operations.  This puts this newly resurrected financial institution DBSI at greater risk of bankruptcy sooner or in the near future.

There is high probability for the current board to make bias decisions for the good of their masters or themselves by overlooking the survival of DBSI as a profit-driven institution to support businesses.

Hence, a change in the board of directors is desperately needed now than later.

Issued by TSI Tonight

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