Thursday, 12 February 2009

Governance...again..And Gift Aid.

So Governance is firmly in the spotlight with the riveting drama of the Commons Select Committee lynching of the errant bankers. The Moore memorandum has highlighted the importance of the non executive role on a Board in the corporate sector. I think this yet again emphasises the need for reform and the opening up of Boards to a wider pool of talent . Clearly I am arguing the case for charity Chief executives. I pushed this hard back in 2003 with the Higgs review and got him on side . This led to the setting up of the Tyson task force to consider how to make company Boards more diverse . Our recommendations , including how companies should put more women and charity CEOs on Boards were ignored .The recommendations were only advisory. And it is now clear they were never going to go anywhere. The " club" that is the narrow circle of self regarding non executives who have made so much from the bonus culture were never going to want change.

So Government need to consider legislation to enforce change ; both on people on Boards and on CSR. It is so unfortunate that the Enquiry established by Alistair Darling into the Banks is being headed by a former banker. Surely a big mistake , when there ar plenty of very eminent people who are untainted by the scandals in the banks and who could have brought an impartial view to this .I await his reply to my suggestion that they have a cbharity CEO on the enquiry.

But as I have stressed , the third sector needs to learn lessons too . I was interested in the comment on my Blog from "caricelillen " about the power of the Chair -CEO relationship . How this may not always be good . It is a very fair point. I often see the problem of a fall out in this relationship . I also see the value that a good relationship brings as well . But this must not detract from the need for strong , independent trustees who can challenge and be critical . Not in an obstructive way , but bringing the wealth of the experience they have to raise issues that the Chair and CEO may not have considered . When you see the sorry sight of the 4 chairs and CEOs of RBS and HBOS before the parliamentary tumbrels , you do just pause and think what were the non - execs on these Boards doing ( apart from collecting their bonuses obviously ).

I expect that people would consider the Chair - CEO of Futurebuilders as a pretty powerful force . Lewis and Bubb . Not to be crossed lightly you might think . But actually when I was putting together the Board for the new Futurebuilders I wanted to get top class talent. So we have a very powerful Board ; the Chair of the LSC, the former managing partner of one of the worlds biggest legal firms, a successful venture capital Finance Director , A top investment analyst , for example. Great people from the sector like Dame Jo Williams , Kevin Carey the Vice Chair of RNIB. These are no shrinking violets. They do challenge . They spot things and raise issues that we have to consider . This is how it should be . Whilst I tend to the view I have good ideas and tend to want them implemented immediately , it can be good to have the odd contrary opinion . Which is sometimes correct! A Chief executive or a Chair cannot be right all of the time. Though they must be right most of the time.

And Boards' should never work on the basis of complete consensus. That often means decision making at the lowest common denominator. So I am a great believer in following your instinct , even when those around you are less clear . So , this governance business ain't easy!

I was forcefully reminded of how important governance is when I met a group of ACEVO members having lunch in the Wesleyan Cafe in Westminster Central Hall yesterday . They are the survivors of an ACEVO new CEO course . They have been meeting as a group since then to offer each other peer support and encouragement . It was good to see them , but they told me that of the course of 11 , 3 member CEOs have left their organisations sin the last 2 years because they have fallen out with their Chairs . This is not good news . And a shocking statistic . it just reinforces my view that the Charity Commission need to reconsider their role here . It may be that we need separate regulation for the larger charities? A new body that might have a different approach to governance and change ? Just an ideAnd I was in the Wesleyan Cafe , an unusual spot for me as Stuart Ethrington was quick to jest , for a pre meeting of the ncvo , acevo , cfdg and IoF gang before we went to see Stephen Tinmms MP, the Financial Secretary for HMT. We are making progress on gift aid and VAT. he was welcoming . But we will see. A joint press release from us all sets out where we got to . So read all about it there!

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