ICU cries over board chairmen involved in administration

BY: Emmanuel Ebo Hawkson
 Mr Morgan Ayawine
Mr Morgan Ayawine

The Industrial and Commercial Workers Union (ICU) has raised concerns over what it describes as the menace of board chairmen “hijacking” the administrative work of certain institutions.

Although the labour union did not make reference to any particular board chairmen, it said the “unlawful” activities of such board chairmen were undermining the smooth administration of those organisations, a development which had negatively affected the interests of workers.

A Deputy General Secretary of the ICU in charge of Operations, Mr Morgan Ayawine, told the Daily Graphic in an interview yesterday that the problem persisted in many public and private institutions but was more pervasive in rural and community banks (RCBs).

He said the labour union had received numerous complaints from its members about the “disruptive” activities of those board chairmen.

“These board chairmen have planted themselves in these rural and community banks and they take administrative decisions, including the signing of queries and dismissal letters.

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“What, then, is the work of the administrators and general managers of these banks?” he asked.

Mandate of boards

He said by law and corporate structure, the mandate of boards of directors was to provide direction and formulate policies for implementation by the management of organisations but “not to get involved in their operations’’.

“But these days the trend has changed. They find space within the premises of the banks and try to influence day-to-day activities as if they are part of the management of the banks,” he said.

Fracas between management and boards

The ICU’s concern comes on the heels of well-publicised instances of friction between some board chairmen and the heads of certain institutions.

Notable among the conflicts was the one between the Auditor-General, Mr Daniel Yao Domelovo, and the Chairman of the Audit Service Board, Professor Edward Dua Agyeman.

On July 27, 2018, Mr Domelovo petitioned President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo over “interference from the board chairman’’.

He accused the board chairman of manipulating procurement processes and trying to control him.

Prof. Dua Agyeman, however, denied the allegations and insisted that it was the Auditor-General who had refused to work with the board on the basis that he was not answerable to the board.

Another well known example was the impasse between the Board of Directors of the Ghana Cylinder Manufacturing Company and the company’s CEO, Madam Frances Essiam.

At one point during the impasse the board members were allegedly locked out of the company’s premises on the orders of the CEO.
To resolve the impasse, President Akufo-Addo dissolved the board and appointed a new one this month.

Private property

Mr Ayawine accused some board chairmen of the RCBs of turning the banks into their private property and putting in place systems that ensured that they controlled virtually everything without any form of accountability to anybody.

Another problem in relation to the activities of the board chairmen, he said, was the difficulty workers faced in having their grievances addressed.

“Whenever there is an issue affecting workers of these banks who are members of ICU and the union contacts the human resource or general managers, we are always directed to go and see the board chairmen, since they have the real power.

“Every decision is referred to the board chairmen. Even during salary negotiations, you see board chairmen being part. That is not proper. The general managers and management teams are supposed to be responsible for negotiations and then take their mandate from the board,” he added.

Way forward

On how to deal with the problem, Mr Ayawine appealed to the Bank of Ghana (BoG) to strictly enforce its regulation in relation to RCBs and call the board chairmen to order.

He said if action was not taken, some RCBs would fail in delivering on their mandate of providing financial services for the rural folk.

“Because these banks are operating in the rural areas, their actions and inaction are not easily noticed. The workers are also afraid to talk about these things. The time has come for the central bank to take a critical look at rural banks,“ he said.

Trade union is key

Touching on some of the challenges facing the ICU, Mr Ayawine said the unionisation of workers in some companies had been hampered by the anti-union posture of some employers.

He said some workers had also contributed to the problem by not insisting on their fundamental right to form associations.

“As a worker, you cannot contribute your quota meaningfully for the attainment of desirable outcomes at workplaces without the presence and protection of a trade union,” he said.

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