[CCWG-ACCT] Budgetary veto/control solves the wrong problem and avoids solving the right one

George Sadowsky george.sadowsky at gmail.com
Mon Jul 27 15:30:33 UTC 2015


These are my personal opinions.

I suspect that the reaction to this post will be, "we are way past this, we've discussed this, and now just help us work on the implementation details."  If so, I think that's a mistake, because what I'd like to do is question one of the fundamental assumptions behind what this group is doing.  

When this process started, there was general agreement that it was more important to do this right than to do it quickly  Unfortunately, this feeling appears to have reversed, with the current sense that it is more important to get it done quickly in the name of the transition than to spend the time needed to do it right.  This process is going beyond accountability to a fundamental redesign of ICANN, with IMO inadequate concern for assuring inclusivity of support as well as lack of concern for unanticipated consequences.

So here's what I'd like to contribute ...

I've been uncomfortable with the notion of budgetary control/veto since the idea was first presented.  I think that I now know why: in my opinion it solves the wrong problem, and it is the wrong solution to the right problem.  Let me explain.

In general, budgetary control is exercised by groups who want to control an aggregate budget, whether for reasons of limiting growth or ensuring that aggregate expenses for a budget do not exceed some measure of income.  I don't think that's the case here, although I suppose that under exceptional circumstances it might be.

The alternative is that the control the group appears to want must be by program or even by line item, even though you're planning to use a very blunt instrument  --  control over approval of the aggregate budget  --  as your tool to accomplish this.  If that's the case, then what you really want is programatic control, not budgetary control.  If the program is accepted, then subject to resource constraints, it's up to the staff to deliver, and any specific line item or similar objection, however expressed, interferes with the execution of the activity.  

If the disagreement is with the program, with the objectives to be accomplished, and how the objectives are to be accomplished, then that is where the control should be exercised.  Any budgetary control after that is micromanagement.  The response to that is if you don't trust the organization to implement a rather well defined activity, then change the management/staff, don't restrict their resources and let them continue anyway.

I suggest pursuing this line of argument further.  In my opinion, our fundamental problem has two components: (1) a persistent inadequate level of trust between groups within the ICANN community, and (2) our inability/unwillingness to create and use structures to deal directly with this situation and improve it.   I see the mechanism as starting with a lack of trust   --  in Board, management, staff, as well as the ACs and the SOs and their constituent parts  -- that generates not only suspicion regarding motives, non-transparent actions, and actions that are not equally favorable to all groups involved, but also the sense that the process is not serving "me" (whoever I am) well and is therefore out of control.  

In other words, IMO we have a fundamental problem of trust, and we don't have an effective way to talk about it or to otherwise address it, much less solve it.

The budget rejection process that is being defined by the group is IMO based more upon defining ultimate ("nuclear" if you like) confrontation mechanisms than upon finding cooperative mechanisms to identify and resolve potential conflicts at an earlier stage.  It does not address the trust issue, and to the extent that my hypothesis is correct, if not addressed the trust issue will continue to bedevil ICANN activities, in other probably equally destructive ways.   Should not this group be equally or more concerned about mechanisms to identify issues and encourage cooperative-based and trust building processes to solve problems as they arise?   It does not appear so to me.

 In summary, the current approach, gaining more control over budget approval, is based upon a model of checks and balances, and that may be legitimate to some extent.  However, I sense that is not the way in which it is planned to be employed.  If so, it solves the wrong problem, nad it does not address the real problem.   We need a different approach, one of getting to the root of disagreements, real and perceived, that is early and based upon increased cooperation and trust, and we need a way to communicate that encourages this to happen.  This is not an easy problem to solve, but IMO it's the real problem that we have to solve, rather than some well meaning but inaccurate proxy representation of it.

Please consider these thoughts in your discussions.



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