Whether you support it or not, we are experiencing a renaissance of industrial policy. Politicians of all stripes are placing growing hopes in public companies – especially with a view to climate protection: Rail should become a real alternative to domestic flights. Municipal transport companies are to develop innovative mobility platforms. Public utilities are to produce green electricity and build charging stations for electric cars. However, we fear that as long as politicians and officials dominate the supervisory boards of state-owned companies, bitter disappointments are inevitable. Those who propagate industrial policy must therefore also demand better public governance – and above all a professionalisation of supervisory boards.
More independent experts in the supervisory boards
Good news comes from the capital of the wretched: Cologne. There were also some scandals there last again. Mayor Henriette Reker, for example, stopped the appointment of SPD politician Martin Börschel as the highly remunerated managing director of Stadtwerke. The Council therefore now intends to tighten up the Public Governance Code. It has been reported that supervisory boards will have to establish an audit committee in the future, which will also deal with the internal control system. In addition, the Council should send “at least one external and independent member” to each Supervisory Board who has specialist and industry knowledge. We think That would be a first step, but not enough. The people of Cologne would only succeed in making a big move if they replaced all politicians with independent experts. However, this would require a reform of the NRW municipal ordinance, which in some cases prescribes mayors or municipal officials in supervisory bodies. The situation is similar in other federal states. We therefore appeal to the growing number of ambitious industrial policy-makers to push ahead with public governance reforms at state level – and, of course, at rail level.