The Legislator’s Dilemma: Following or Moving against the Tide of Perverse Incentives

By Fletcher Tembo*

Listening to an expert discussion of the role of elected representatives in social accountability interventions at a recent event hosted by the Mwananchi Governance Programme and CIVICUS in Johannesburg on 16th May 2013, I was reminded of this quote by Joe Khamisi, a former Kenyan MP:

“Save, you may not see Parliament again”, one two-term Member liked to tell us. In many cases non-performers with deep pockets are preferred than stingy doers. “As much as possible, avoid your constituents in the first three years and show up only towards the last half of your term, with plenty of money!”

In response, a Member of Parliament (MP) from one of the countries where Mwananchi works said, “You need to put premium on leadership”. In other words, we should not expect leaders to deliver the change we want if society encourages them to pursue perverse incentives to attain and remain in office, and to achieve solutions to collective action problems. Continue reading

Occupy: Reinventing leadership, governance and economic paradigms

Last week I had the privilege of addressing the Business Social Responsibility (BSR) conference in San Francisco. The conference, which brings together some of the leading players in the field of corporate sustainability, explored the theme ‘Reinventing Leadership.’ Al Gore kicked off proceedings with a provocative address including a vivid description of US legislators in thrall to business interests, a theme echoed in the New York Times by Thomas Friedman. Continue reading