A tragedy unfolded in Christchurch today. The CEO of the City Council, Mr Tony Marryatt, was stood down by Mayor Bob Parker, due to ongoing problems with the issuing of building consents. The problems, which have been discussed in the public domain for some time, are due in part to the increased number of applications arising from the rebuild of Christchurch buildings post the devastating earthquakes of 2011 and 2012.
Mayor Parker took action in because, in his own words, crucial information failed to reach the governance team. Gosh, this is serious. On the surface, the statement presents the Mayor as being decisive in response to a significant problem. However, under the surface, the statement exposes a problem relating to information flow and expectation. In the governance contexts that I am familiar with, the Board is responsible for ensuring it has all the information it needs to enable a decision to be made. Yet in this case, it appears that the Mayor (at least) expected information "to be provided".
If the information the Mayor now describes as being crucial was not provided, then one of two things will have occurred. The CEO may have chosen not to provide it (as implied by the Mayor's comments), or the Council may have failed in its duty to ask the right questions to elicit the information. Either way, the failure of governance is laid bare. Rather than start by blaming the CEO (I'm not suggesting he is blameless), the Mayor and Councillors should reflect on their own conduct, to determine whether they have discharged their civic duty to the full extent expected under their warrants. If they have, then well and good. If not, then perhaps they too should stand down.
Thoughts on corporate governance, strategy and effective board practice; our place in the world; and, other things that catch my attention.