Wednesday, July 6, 2022

“I am a hands-on person” BOCCIM president

After a quite lengthy rebuttal of the charges that Maria Machailo-Ellis levels at him, Alex Monchusi takes his best shot yet: “I have been at BOCCIM longer than Maria.” Decoded that would mean “I understand BOCCIM culture better than she does.”

One standard practice there, he had explained earlier, is that Council members are allowed free access to staff members whom they often consult on issues pertaining to their respective areas of expertise.

Contrary to what Machailo-Ellis says about him bypassing her and giving direct instructions to her juniors, Monchusi says that he did nothing out of the ordinary and that when this happens, the officers in question can always report back to the CEO about the nature of such interaction.

Furthermore, he recalls a time when he had to deal directly with a director because Machailo-Ellis herself was not in the office “for days” and he was working on a “big assignment”.

Monchusi, whose term of office expires on September 19, says he has often had to do work that the CEO herself is supposed to do. He makes this statement in responding to the charge that he embedded personal interest in a report that BOCCIM prepared for the government.

While Machailo-Ellis did not want to reveal details about this issue, he mentions two reports: one on the ratings of government ministries, another on bureaucratic red tape. The claim he makes is that one report was so “poorly done” that he had to sacrifice his own time to work on it.
“I am a hands-on person,” he says, adding that working with both Machailo-Ellis and one of her juniors, he helped knock the report into shape.

“She had done nothing and the assignment was overdue.”

He denies the personal interest charge, saying that the secretariat cannot “hog work” and accuse him of pushing personal interest when he steps in to save the situation. However, he does not deny that he has a range of business interests (one he cites is construction) but hastens to add that the report dealt with general industry issues and not his own personal interests.

Monchusi and Machailo-Ellis don’t even agree on figures. While the latter says it would be three months before minutes of a meeting are submitted to Monchusi for signing, he quotes a different figure. For starters, he doesn’t deny refusing to sign the minutes and his explanation is that “a whole booklet of minutes would be given to me to sign after almost a year”. His contention is that the minutes would “just be too old” and determining whether the proceedings had been properly captured would be an extremely difficult task.

Monchusi cites poorly-done reports and stale minutes as evidence that Machailo-Ellis was underperforming. This issue is contentious because as the latter states, the immediate two past presidents that she worked under were happy with her performance. In response to this specific point, Monchusi says that unlike him, those presidents didn’t oversee the implementation of a strategic plan and came in at a time that the BOCCIM operation was leaner than it is now. With regard to the latter, he says that while in the past the organisation had two directors, it now has five. Taking over the reins of power in 2011, Monchusi says that his grand plan was to “change things” and that he can only do that if there is a “vibrant, responsive secretariat”.

“Demands on BOCCIM have increased: there is a five-year strategic plan to implement and members are complaining that they don’t see results and that the CEO is never in the office. I came on a mandate to take things to the next level. She is not used to being supervised and to meeting deadlines,” he charges.

The one other thing he mentions is that “times are different” and that the “present administration” is placing demands on the private sector to take a more proactive role in national development.
“The government is complaining about the private sector, about it not being able to meet deadlines and not being able to put decent statistics together.”

Regarding the minutes, he confirms (“Yes, absolutely”) that he wanted to both chair meetings and write the minutes because he found that to be more convenient. His experience was that BOCCIM minutes would take a bit too long to be prepared when he needed them sooner because he had to refer to them at another meeting happening soon thereafter.
He says that in a properly staffed “a nice big set-up” minutes would be produced timeously but that BOCCIM didn’t have the luxury of such set-up and relied on volunteers who did not always deliver on time. Even then, he asserts, the fact that he would take on the dual roles, was not an impediment in any way because for them to acquire significance, the minutes would still have to be reviewed by his colleagues and adopted as a reflection of what was discussed.

BOCCIM’s former deputy president, Daisy Molefhi, is supposed to have resigned because she disagreed with the way Monchusi did things. His version of the story with regard to this aspect is that during meetings, she would be the only one disagreeing with him and also that personal relations were a factor.

“Some people don’t want their friends to be taken to task,” he says.

Although Monchusi declines to elaborate the latter statement, a connect-the-dots exercise may help close the information gap. In this story, the only person he took to task is Machailo-Ellis.

About out-of-office meetings with external stakeholders where he and Machailo-Ellis had disagreed, Monchusi does, once more, confirm that to be true and attributes it to the poor working relationship between them. He says that when a junior and his supervisor attend a meeting together, established practice is that the junior “defers to the boss.” In their case, there have been instances when Machailo-Ellis would say something that he adjudged to misrepresent BOCCIM’s position. When that happened he immediately intervened to set the record straight, he says.

And about the P20 000 pay raise that Machailo-Ellis is said to have got. Although Monchusi concedes all the points that she makes about centrality of the Finance and Management Committee in such matters and about the raise having occurred prior to his tenure, he has a question.
“Where are the records?” he asks.

The board, he explains, would have approved such raise but there should be records that explain why that had to happen. To the question of who is responsible for the record-keeping, he responds: “The CEO.”

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