The controversy surrounding the appointment of a Chief Executive Officer of the National Communications Network (NCN) raises three important questions which will be discussed within this column.
NCN had advertised for a new CEO and there were interviews conducted by the Board of Directors, which is ultimately responsible for the appointment. The person selected to be appointed apparently a long time ago – more than fifteen years – had an issue of alleged forgery at a previous place of employment.
This has become a lightning rod of controversy, with one Board member reportedly not pleased with the selection on the basis that the alleged offence was of such a nature that the person should have been disqualified.
The three questions raised by this entire controversy are:
1. What are the skills needed for the job?
2. How long does one hold an offence against someone?
3. Are some offences of such a nature as to disqualify someone for a specific appointment regardless of the time since the offence was committed?
First, let us examine the issue of the skills that should have been required for the job. There seems to have developed a tendency that if an agency is providing a specific service, then the person who is selected to manage that agency should be an expert in that specific field. The world, however, is moving away from that sort of thinking, and this is no more so than in cricket which is now managed not by cricketers, but by professionals skilled in marketing and international management.
In the case of the NCN, the Board has gone for someone who is qualified in communications, but who is also qualified in management. This shows that the Board is moving away from the traditional thinking and is looking for someone with the right balance – both marketing and management skills.
NCN is not a small company. It is a medium-sized company which has to be managed properly. It brings together both radio and TV. Its transmission reaches, or is supposed to reach, across many communities in Guyana. Marketing is a major aspect of the work of NCN. Ideally, therefore, a broad range of expertise will be expected of anyone that is appointed to head NCN.
The issue of qualifications is, however, not the only factor to be considered. There is the issue of experience. Ideally, the NCN should be looking for someone with the experience and with a track record of managing a company of the size of or even bigger than NCN.
NCN should therefore be examining what the candidates for the job bring to the job. What have they achieved in their previous jobs? What have been their successes and what have been their failures? In the modern world, employers are looking to recruit the best persons for the job and they assess the best person not just on qualifications but on experience and achievements.
The second question concerns how long should a wrong that someone did be held against them. This is not a legal question. It is a moral issue. You cannot in this modern world hold an offence against someone indefinitely. If you do, it means that a person who has committed an infraction will never get a second chance.
Some of the most successful executives in this country have been persons who got a second chance. In law, there is a concept called a statute of limitation. In employment, there has to be a similar parallel. You cannot morally disqualify someone for something that was done a long time ago. That is simply not fair, and if that rule is applied it will lead to many persons never being eligible for re-employment. NCN itself has reemployed someone who was once charged but never convicted for an offence before the Courts.
There are of course some offences that go beyond the pale and effectively disqualify someone from being appointed to certain positions. You do not expect a murderer or a convicted rapist or a pedophile to be appointed to a position of authority within any organization, much less one where image is important.
Whether fraud is one of those offences is up for discussion. It all depends on the seriousness or gravity of the offence. But a person should not be punished twice for an offence. A person who has paid his dues should not have to suffer permanently because of an infraction committed a long time ago.
The important considerations are to what extent that infraction will stand in the way of the employee gaining the confidence of the staff and stakeholders, and to what extent the person’s infraction will sully the image of the corporation.
NCN has made its choice. It has given reasons for its choice. The person will be on probation and that person should be allowed to do his job to the best of his ability.
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