Incentivized Performance

The recent disclosure of bonus allocations to NIB executives highlights an important distinction between the public and private sectors – that of incentivized pay.

We are astonished that the Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) spent over $11 million in overtime last fiscal year; certainly, government payrolls need to be reined in and some positions made redundant. But, the government still needs to encourage participation by The Bahamas’ brightest individuals. It needs those individuals with industry expertise and leadership to manage and increase the performance of Bahamian corporations. Sometimes satisfaction for public servitude is simply not enough. Financial incentives linked to performance-based measurements are needed.

Taxpayers are weary of government pay bonuses. Bonuses fall into the category of spending accounts, car privileges, and other difficult to define monetary benefits that reek of corruption and paybacks. In what has turned into a tit-for-tat public drama, allegations between the NIB chairman and NIB director center on the misuse of public funds.

Sadly, public funds are misappropriated and the Bahamian public suffers as a result. Repaying political support by placing incompetent individuals to leadership positions with unscrupulous financial benefits cannot be tolerated.

When the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Moody’s, and local financial experts emphasize greater fiscal responsibility, the distribution of bonuses does seem foolish. But no one works for free. The Bahamas needs experts and strong leadership in its government now. Consultants offer advice but it is up to the government and its actions to make the recommended changes.

The Bahamas government is the country’s largest employer. In lieu of high payment, a government job offers stability and benefits. Political appointments offer social prestige and power. Yet, conflicts occur when political appointees, without substantial evidence of occupational know-how, are perceived to receive benefits at the cost of performance.

Is there anything wrong with a government employee receiving a financial bonus when linked to performance measurement criteria? The government in order to remain competitive for talent has to provide incentives.

Perhaps, other government agencies should look to the structure of NIB’s performance measurements to reward improvements and results. And where results are not met and performance is unsatisfactory, positions should be vacated and replacements brought forward.

The key to incentivized performance is to have independent oversight and approval of bonus distribution. The public has the right to know who and why a government employee has received additional compensation.

The government is the engine of the country. But it should not have to forfeit talent because it is uncompetitive with the private sector. Serving your country is an honor, but the government could learn quite a lot about employee satisfaction from the local private industries. Indeed, The Bahamas needs to encourage greater employee motivation, stagnant positions and poor pay lead to low morale and service which already plague the country.

Editorial From The Nassau Guardian