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CFTC board angers staff

JANA—The issues are sensitive

HELEMA—It won’t happen again

17 meetings, instead of around five in 17 months and K77 million spent, the board of directors of the Competition and Fair Trading Commission (CFTC) makes staff unhappy as ‘operations starve’

By Deogratias Mmana

The Competition and Fair Trading Commission (CFTC) Act provides that its board of directors shall convene at least four meetings in a year.

But the Commission’s board has met over 17 times in 17 months since it was constituted.

For these meetings, the Commission has spent around K77 million, spending which staff say has deprived the Commission some money meant for operations. And they have made their displeasure known to the board.

Going by the Act, since last year, the board should have held at least five ordinary meetings to date to the tune of around K22.8 million.

But the board held a further 12 meetings which cost the Commission about K54.8 million.

The number of meetings exclude emergency meetings which the law allows. But an inside source said, by all means, such emergency meetings could not go as high as 12.

Based on a bank transaction for Transport and Traveling (T&T) allowances for 10 board members for a special meeting they held on April 22, 2022, it means about K77 million has been spent.

One of the employees said meetings of the board are governed by the CFTC Act and the board’s charter.

The source further argued that the board should have held around six or eight meetings including special meetings by now and not 17.

Section 13 (2) of CFTC Act reads: “The Commission shall meet for transaction of business at least once every three months at such places and at such times as the chairman may determine.”

Section 13 (3) provides guidance for the holding of special board meetings as follows: “A special meeting of the Commission may be called by the chairman upon written notice of not less than seven days, received from any members of the Commission and shall be called if at least four members so request in writing provided that if the urgency of any particular matter does not permit the giving of such notice, a special meeting may be called upon giving a shorter notice.”

Further, chapter 11 (1) of the board’s charter reads: “The board shall meet at least once every quarter of the year.”

Chapter 11 (2) reads: “The board may meet for an extraordinary meeting to transact urgent business. For planning purposes, management may plan for additional meetings in any particular year.”

Inside sources say the board’s conduct has affected the Commission’s operations because most of the meetings were not budgeted for and some allowances for the board members are drawn from funds meant for operations or activities of the Commission.

According to a communication from concerned staff members to the board chairperson dated May 5, 2022, the board called off a meeting between it and staff members scheduled for April 22, 2022 at the lake side after learning that the employees had a prepared a petition to present.

The issues the employees had wanted to raise include fading corporate boundary in functions of the secretariat where they allege the board is policing them instead of giving them policy direction; financial constraints affecting secretariat activities; waning of staff morale and distrust between the board and secretariat.

Reads the communication in part: “To finance these unnecessary board meetings the board directed management to be diverting funds from operations. As we speak, a number of CFTC operations remain unfunded, leaving staff disgruntled.

“The staff are also unhappy with the board’s style of micromanagement. Every activity budget including case investigations have to be authorised by board members. This is a corporate governance failure.”

The communication concludes in this way: “CFTC operations are suffering because of your insatiable love for personal enrichment through special meetings.

“Let the board give space to our able executive management to perform its rightful role.”

When asked about the 17 meetings and draining of resources and micromanaging of the executive, CFTC board chairperson, Jerry Jana, while referring us to the Commission for a comment, said he knew the issues and that they came from within the organisation.

He also described the issues as sensitive.

CFTC spokesperson Innocent Helema justified the extra meetings. But he was quick to add that the trends would not be repeated this year.

“The extra meetings last year were necessitated by investigations and disciplinary proceedings into allegations of misconduct by some members of management. That is not and will not be the case this year,” Helema said.

He added that a further need arose when the Commission had to meet to approve the budget for the current financial year, which he said had a deadline for submission.

According to the board’s charter, one of the functions of the board is to be responsible for the overall leadership and long term success of the Commission by ensuring that there are in place prudent and effective measures and strict adherence to approved strategic plan.

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