In his long-awaited plan to address the Zondo Commission’s recommendations, the President has set unwarrantedly long timelines in place for the establishment of better processes for selecting board members for state-owned enterprises (SOEs), says Parmi Natesan, CEO of the Institute of Directors in South Africa (IoDSA).
“The Zondo Commission quite rightly found that the appointment and removal of board members and senior executives are being manipulated to facilitate state capture. This is an issue that the IoDSA has been highlighting for several years now and, more to the point, we have put in a lot of work with Government to provide solutions,” she says. “The lengthy timelines indicated in the President’s written response simply do not make sense, especially given the urgency of the matter.”
In his response, the President indicates that Government accepted the need for “a process for the appointment of boards of state-owned enterprises that is not open to manipulation”. This process will involve independent panels with the appropriate technical expertise to recommend suitable candidates. Crucially, the “Guide for the Appointment of Persons to Boards and Chief Executive Officers of State-Owned and State-Controlled Institutions” that such panels would use will only be finalised in the 2023/24 financial year.
“The President’s timeline is too long given the urgent need to begin repairing our SOEs; it’s also unwarranted because the Guide was apparently finalised in early 2019 after input from the IoDSA, among other organisations,” says Parmi Natesan, CEO of the IoDSA. “I can accept that there would be a need to revisit the document in the light of the Zondo Report, but this could be done rapidly. The IoDSA stands ready to work with the Department of Public Service and Administration to get this done, and certainly before the end of the current financial year. The work is largely done, assuming that the recommendations originally made by the IoDSA are in the existing version of the guide, why the delay?”
She adds that she assumes that the independent panel would include representation from the IODSA which represents directors and is responsible for setting and maintaining the standards of professionalism amongst its members. The IoDSA is also the custodian of the King Code of Corporate Governance, which also continues to provide internationally respected guidance, including the governance of SOEs.
The government also proposes the establishment of a central database of potential candidates, but this is again a duplication of work that has already been done, Ms Natesan continues. The IoDSA’s database of individuals who have obtained one of its two certifications—Certified Director and Chartered Director—already exists. These certifications offer a way to identify individuals who have been found to possess the professional skills and personal qualities necessary to act as directors based on the IoDSA’s Directorship Competency Framework.
“I’m sure I don’t speak just for the IoDSA when I say that we are growing weary of responding to the Government’s requests for help in sorting out the governance mess at the SOEs and not seeing any action,” Ms Natesan concludes. “We implore the government not to reinvent the wheel here—much of the work needed to put a proper process for making credible board appointments is already done. The country cannot afford any further delay.”
 The full text of the speech is available at https://www.gov.za/speeches/president-cyril-ramaphosa-response-president-cyril-ramaphosa-commission-inquiry-allegations.
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The full text of the speech is available at https://www.gov.za/speeches/president-cyril-ramaphosa-response-president-cyril-ramaphosa-commission-inquiry-allegations.
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