Telecom's oversight group defends its credentials

Industry players question experience of members

The two independent members of Telecom’s Independent Oversight Group (IOG) have defended their appointments as industry players such as TUANZ and CallPlus question the independence and “hands on” experience of the members.

The IOG is the body that will monitor the Telecom’s compliance with its operational separation undertakings.

IOG member Jerry Rickman, a Waikato businessman, says while he has no direct telecommunications experience, he hopes to bring “a good deal of commonsense to the IOG”.

The other independent member, Dave Frow, also admits he has no telecomms experience, adding he is independent of telecommunications companies, government and has no potential conflicts of interest.

Last week in the New Zealand Herald, Telecommunications Users Association of New Zealand CEO Ernie Newman said he was surprised Telecom appointed “lawyers, accountants and other honchos” to the IOG.

“We thought it would be more of a hands-on, sleeves-rolled-up group,” Newman said.

Martin Wylie, chief executive of CallPlus, told the paper Telecom was looking for “some fairly tame individuals”.

Frow, however, says he has decades of industry experience in the energy sector and is a former CEO of ECNZ and chairman of Transpower.

“On Government’s direction, I managed the transition of the original multi-faceted ECNZ to the current companies listed: Contact Energy, Transpower, Meridian Energy, Genesis and Mighty River Power,” he told Computerworld.

Over the past ten years, Frow has specialised in mentoring and structural reform consulting, claiming an insight into many New Zealand and overseas companies.

“I believe my technical background, governance experience and previous direct involvement in the separation process provide a sound base for a role on the IOG” he says.

“Whilst not previously involved in the telecommunications industry, I have the training and experience to quickly gain the relevant knowledge.”

Frow says he was approached by a search agency and went through several interviews before being selected.

“I have no political connections or affiliations whatsoever, have no conflicts of interest as clearly defined in the Government’s Separation Directive, and have no prior contacts with the Chairman or CEO of Telecom,” he says.

Rickman, a Hamilton-based chartered accountant, stresses a wide range of business management experience over the decades. He helped build up the Beattie Rickman accountancy business, which recently was taken over by Price-WaterhouseCoopers.

Rickman is currently chairman of Waikato District Health Board and a former CEO. He has also sat on a government body looking at reducing compliance costs for businesses. His other roles, covering aiports, construction and education, include being a former chairman of Innovation Waikato.

“I’m very confident that under the leadership of Justice Paterson we will work as a strong team and fulful the responsibilities [of being an IOG member],” he says.

Telecom announced this month that the IOG will be chaired by retired High Court Judge, Barry Paterson. The two non-independent members on the IOG are Telecom board member Ron Spithill and the general manager of Telecom International, Anthony Briscoe.

The IOG will hold its first meeting this afternoon and tomorrow. In its first year, it will meet six times, and then four times a year afterwards.

Telecom says it used an external recruitment company that specialises in senior appointments in selecting the IOG members. The Commerce Commission was also consulted during the appointment process, it says.

The group, fully-funded by Telecom, will provide regular reports on Telecom’s key undertakings milestones to the company’s board. The IOG will also agree Codes of Conduct for Telecom people and key performance indicators with the Telecom Board, as well as monitoring and reporting on ongoing compliance.

Telecom says the independence of the IOG stems from the chairman and most board members being independent.

“The support office that looks after the day to day operations is also required by the Undertakings to act with sufficient independence.

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