How does one right a wrong without creating more wrongs
What is for us the climax of our business calendar, the Namibian Businesswoman of the Year Awards, turned into a painful nightmare this week when it was discovered that a discrepancy in the scoring of the judging process, resulted in the wrong nominee being announced as the recipient of the main award.
Imagine the elation on the side of the announced winner, and then the total disappointment when it turns out, a mistake, and a grave one, was made.
The Businesswoman Gala Banquet is indeed a fancy affair. It is an expensive, glamorous party to which many of Windhoek’s business who’s whos come, not only to enjoy the ball, but to see who will eventually receive the very prestigious award.
As has become the custom over the past few years, a Young Businesswoman Award is announced first. This award always brings to the public’s attention the abilities of young entrepreneurs or professional women, showing their tenacity and their first tentative successes on a business or corporate ladder that will still count many rungs into the future.
Again this was the case and the popularity of shining the limelight, however briefly on these young achievers, was vividly expressed by the applause and appreciation from the audience.
Then Businesswoman Awards are announced in each of three categories with the specific disclaimer in the Awards Rules & Criteria that if the panel of judges for a specific category feels a nominee is not strong enough, no award will be made.
Something similar has happened very recently when the Mo Ibrahim Award for Achievement in African Leadership was not conferred after deliberation by the Prize Committee. This award is the richest award in the world, granting the recipient US$5 million over 10 years and US$200,000 annually for life. Nelson Mandel, for instance, is an honorary recipient of this award.
For us the relevance is that we have learned much over the past 19 years from other, international, high ranking awards. We have adopted many principles that are universal to all prestigious awards, and we have meticulously incorporated these practices into the Namibian Businesswoman Awards. So, it does happen, due to the reticence of many females, and the rigorous judging process that is in place, that only one nominee will pass all the screening and make it to the final nominee stage. This is where we shall not confer an award if our judges are of the opinion that the candidate or candidates do not merit such an award.
When it became clear earlier this week that a mistake has been made with the main award, we found ourselves in a particularly sticky conundrum. Since all the parties involved; we the organisers, the panel of judges, the auditors and most important, the sponsors, realised that such an error can not be fixed without creating misery somewhere for someone, it was carefully deliberated what an ethical course of action should be. After all, we realised that the nominee who should have received the main award at the Gala Banquet, was wronged more than the person who received it in error.
We decided to put the truth squarely in the scrutiny of all parties involved. Here again, there was a mixed bag of reaction, with only one individual arguing that we should leave the announcement as it was made. Fortunately, not without reason, we had chosen a very strong panel of judges for the final round of adjudication, and we received a very clear mandate from them. Actually it was more of an instruction: Fix this mess and come out with the truth!
This set in motion a chain of events of which we most probably have not seen the end yet. But what was clearly demonstrated, is the credibility, the independence and the prestige of all the awards. Were we as organisers manipulating the process that we facilitates at any point along the protracted judging line, we would have picked up the discrepancy before the announcement. So, from this painful history of the past few days, it makes a strong public statement that the process is above board, and the integrity of the outcome is guaranteed.
We certainly realise that these events have caused damage for us but we are also convinced that all of the previous fifteen Namibian Businesswomen of the Years since 2001, know that they received the award they deserve. I am deeply sorry that we had to rescind the initial announcement but I am very happy that the real winning woman is carrying the torch for all other women struggling with a career, or simply struggling to make a living.