OIG blasts 'dysfunctional' Broadcasting Board of Governors for internal rancor, conflicts of interest

The governing board overseeing government broadcasting for the State Department is "failing in its mandated duties," according to a withering report from the department's office of the inspector general.
The nine-member Broadcasting Board of Governors' "dysfunction stems from a flawed legislative structure and acute internal dissension," according to the OIG report. Among its deficiencies is failure to implement key provisions of its 5 year strategic plan, according to the report.
But that is  just the tip of the iceberg. The OIG also finds that:
  • While legislation establishing governors' responsibilities is clear, outlining a boundary between supervision and day-to-day management, "individual governors have interpreted the law differently and determined their own fiduciary responsibilities, which has in turn impeded normal management functions."
  • Interpersonal relations on the board "are characterized by a degree of hostility that renders its deliberative process ineffectual. Board meetings are dominated by one member whose tactics and personal attacks on colleagues and staff have created an unprofessional and unproductive atmosphere."
  • Chronic vacancies and absences threaten the board's ability to act with a quorum, "limit the diversity of perspectives brought to discussion, and put at risk the bipartisan nature of the board."
  • The board's bylaws and governance policies don't have the teeth to appropriately govern board actions.
  • A system allowing governors to serve concurrently on the corporate boards of grantees -- companies providing professional services to the State Department such as Radio Free Europe -- "creates the potential for—and, in some cases, actual—conflict of interest, as perceived by many and gives rise to a widespread perception of favoritism in board decisions.
  • A travel policy needs to be developed.
The BBG oversees 50 news bureaus around the world and five organizations: the International Broadcasting Bureau, which includes the Voice of America and the Office of Cuba Broadcasting; as well as the private, nonprofit Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Radio Free Asia, and the Middle East Broadcasting Networks. The latter three are BBG grantees.
One problem is that law mandates that the corporate board for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty be the same as the BBG board, the OIG notes. Although the law doesn't require it, the membership also is identical for the other two grantee boards, which "creates conflicts of interest and confusion regarding governors' roles and responsibilities," the OIG says.
Individual governors have interjected themselves in day-to-day administration of some the broadcast organizations, according to the report, leading to "inefficiency and confusion over roles and responsibilities" that undermines the IBB's ability to manage the organization.
The OIG report doesn't identify the board member dominating board proceedings in a negative way, but said "he" was a former mayor. Only three men remain on the board; of those, the only former mayor is Republican Victor Ashe, former mayor of Knoxville, Tenn., as well as former U.S. ambassador to Poland.
The referenced board member "habitually disrupts the flow of discussion with points of order, complains of being uninformed about matters that were part of documentation presented before the meeting to all governors, and accuses senior staff of hampering him from carrying out his fiduciary duties by keeping important information from him."
The board's five-year plan called for hiring a full-time chief executive to manage the IBB's day-to-day affairs, but that hasn't happened. The OIG recommends the board move forward immediately in hiring a chief executive officer.
Other recommendations:
  • Remove governors from the boards of Radio Free Asia and Middle East Broadcasting Networks and establish a new mechanism for selecting corporate board members.
  • Establish a policy on meeting attendance that includes sanctions for noncompliance.
  • Use a consent agenda to address routine matters in meetings, and give the chairman authority over conduct and content during meetings.
  • Update and implement the board's nondisclosure policy to reference relevant exemptions in the Sunshine Act and to include sanctions for noncompliance.
At the time of the investigation, two governors had resigned and a third had submitted her resignation. President Obama had nominated a candidate for the vacant chairman of the board role, but had made no other nominations as of Nov. 1, according to the report.
The OIG says"White House delays in nominating candidates and Senate delays in confirming them" puts at risk the intended bipartisan nature of the board.
For more:
- download the report, ISP-IB-13-07 (.pdf)
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