In the corporate business setting, the board of directors is the most powerful and the highest decision making body. The directors are respected people, experts in the field and highly knowledgeable in directing the company or a project in achieving its missions and visions.
It is therefore unpleasant both for employees and shareholders to hear when the people appointed to guide them and the company are shrouded in controversy. In worse case scenarios, public trust in a company could be shaken.
Not to accuse the board of directors of the Bhutan National Bank of accepting bribes or the CEO of offering one, the directors receiving iPads as gifts has stirred a hornet’s nest although it is not openly talked about for the fear of the management.
The bank’s board of directors each received the latest Apple iPad worth nu 65,000. The chief executive officer has admitted that iPads were provied and justified that it was as per the rules, provided for official use and would be returned after their terms expire.
While we can assume that it is justified to provide or receive iPads for board meetings, that happen not more than six times a year, we are not surprised that a board of directors are kept happy for whatever reasons.
Again not to generalise, some companies, including state owned enterprises, organise trips to foreign countries for board members. The trips can be made relevant and “official” to escape questions. It would be difficult to prove this move as seeking favours directly, but it does leave room for suspicion, both for the organisers and those that agree. When such things happen, there are doubters because the CEO is the highest post in a company and is directly answerable to the board of directors.
In some cases, the CEO is appointed by the board that also has the authority to fire him or her. So it is good to remain in the good books of the board members and please them in whatever ways possible.
Offering electronic gadgets is not new. In fact, a favourite gift in Bhutan is electronic whether it is contractors offering government officials or employees gifting their bosses. Not long ago, the Druk Holding and Investments, the government’s investment arm offered the cabinet ministers iPhones, which sparked off a controversy with the Prime Minister, the then leader of opposition party, accusing of blatant corruption and calling for an investigation.
We have strong gift rules and anti corruption rules. But there are many ways to sidestep these rules. The line between official obligation and personal motive to influence decisions is very thin.