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The Role of Government in Corporate Governance

Numerous corporate scandals in the past several years have fueled widespread
debate over proposals for government action. Of course, dishonesty, greed, and
cover-ups are not new societal concerns. The central challenge for government is
how to restore corporate integrity and market confidence without overreacting and
stifling the dynamism that underlies a strong economy. Already policymakers have
adopted numerous reforms. In 2002, the US Congress speedily passed the
Sarbanes-Oxley Act, imposing (among other things) new financial control and
reporting requirements on publicly traded companies in US. These responses make
clear that the governance of corporations has become a central item on the public
policy agenda.
First, the recent corporate crisis has brought into relief the challenge of who should
regulate. Currently, the government shares regulatory authority and oversight with
various nongovernmental, self-regulatory institutions. Self-regulation has been
prominent in the operation of securities markets as well as in the oversight of the
accounting and legal professions. Are these existing self-regulatory arrangements
sufficient? Should government change its oversight of self-regulatory institutions?
Or should government assume a greater and more direct role in regulating?
In addition to choosing who will regulate, recent scandals have highlighted the
challenge of deciding how to regulate. Most broadly, regulators face a choice
between principles and rules. Should regulatory standards articulate broad goals
and purposes; guiding behavior through the adherence to general principles? Or
should regulations take the form of specific rules that tell companies and their
lawyers and auditors exactly what is acceptable and unacceptable? Rules have their
virtues, and they have been widely used, but they also may allow corporate actors
to find ways to comply with the letter of the law while circumventing its spirit.
Finally, regulators face the challenges of deciding how to enforce the rules or
principles they have adopted. Is more aggressive enforcement needed? Should
enforcement officials target just individual perpetrators, or should they also go after
the corporations in which they work? When should regulators pursue criminal (as
opposed to civil) sanctions?
In light of the recent series of corporate scandals, it is reasonable to ask whether
the current structure of self-regulation is adequate. However, deciding who should
regulate corporate behavior and securities transactions is not merely a choice
between either government or self-regulation. Rather, it is a question of when and
how self-regulation should be used.
The role of government is to provide an enabling environment within which the
private sector can thrive.
Some of the best practices are

Government plays both administrative and coordinative roles through its organs
at various ministerial levels.
It is responsible for the maintenance of basic security, public law and order, and
protection of property.

It has an obligation to protect the vulnerable members of society.

Government plays a participatory role on economic development through


parastatals and state owned enterprises. Government plays a facilitative role in the
economy by creating a sound infrastructure. Government provides relevant
infrastructure and basic service enablers such as electricity, water, communication,
infrastructure etc. This enables companies, individuals and government itself to
function or perform efficiently towards wealth creation and economic development
of the country. Government creates a conducive environment for business to
operate under through making regulatory and statutory frameworks. The
interpretation and enforcement of legislation is done through the courts or judiciary
and other national enforcement agencies. The regulatory environment enables the
private sector to play its direct role in increasing employment and thereby
alleviating poverty. Poverty reduction is one of the obligations of government to its
poorer constituencies. It is one of the millennium development goals that all
governments must address and legislation that helps private sector revitalize the
economy is one of the strategies of alleviating poverty. Legislation ensures fairness
and transparency in business dealings and these are some of the tenets of good
corporate governance. It is the fundamental role of government as the biggest
employer in the economy to implement corporate governance within its various
ministries, parastatals and state owned enterprises.