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Governance: There is no middle road!

Date Released: Mon, 17 October 2011 13:02 +0200

By Peter Metcalfe, Chairman at The Foundation for the Development of Africa (FDA) (NPC)


All we need to do is make law abiding decisions!

Should rules be disregarded or not enforced the situation is referred to as ‘bad’ governance. Adhering to the law and obeying the rules is therefore ‘good’ governance.

Everything we do is subjected to regulation or standards. The ultimate law; rule or standard, in any country, should be the Constitution and based upon this foundation, laws and by-laws are devised and standards are established.

We also need to accept that our Constitution is based on acceptance, following in-depth deliberations and decision making.

In a democracy, government represents the entity (the people). This representation may be at national level; provincial level or local level, as prescribed in the constitution. Therefore the laws; by-laws and standards that flow from this constitution has, and will be, subjected to decision making and acceptance by the people.

In the corporate world (business), the board represents the entity (company) and through the company the shareholders. This representation is prescribed in the company charter and subjected to the companies act (and other laws) of the country in which the business operates. Civil Society, including religious groups and labour unions, represents the entity (members) as directed by internal constitutions. Here representation is normally in the form of various boards and trustees.

Although we are all subjected to regulation or standards in various form, we subject ourselves to ‘self-made’ standards; rules and regulation. How we dress. What we eat. Where we stay. When we do things. Everything we do is based on choice. Choice is a process of decision-making. Decision-making is governance.

All we need to do is make law abiding decisions.

Recently I attended a meeting in Sandton (South Africa) some 45 minutes from my home-office. On the way, I paid particular attention to the ‘wrongs’ wittingly or unwittingly committed by fellow motorists. These ‘wrongs’ included: no seat-belts; no number plates; no indicators when turning; the use of mobile phones whilst driving; ignoring traffic signs including traffic lights; reckless driving; exceeding the legal speed limit; overtaking in the face of oncoming traffic and a host of other illegal actions.

All these ‘wrongs’ that we commit, wittingly or unwittingly, equate to ‘bad’ governance – yet most of us will only recognise ‘bad’ governance in others and not ourselves. In most cases we tend to blame this ‘bad’ governance on big business and or government to justify our own behaviour.

So where does ‘good’ governance start?

A well-defined and enforced governance policy provides a structure that works for the benefit of everyone concerned. We can only do this when ensuring that the entity (you and I) adheres to accepted ethical standards and best practices as well as to formal laws.

It is a sad situation when society needs policy to maintain ‘good’ governance. Ethical principles should come from within – not enforced. There is no middle road here. It is either right or wrong!