The Institute of Directors in Southern Africa (IoDSA) has introduced a revolutionary new tool to help measure, enable and report on corporate governance in all types of organisations.
More than three years in the making, with the support of its founding partners, the Governance Assessment Instrument (GAI) is set to become a nationally-accepted benchmark for measuring how various organisations perform against the IoDSA’s King Report on Corporate Governance, which together with relevant legislation sets the standard and principles for corporate governance in South Africa.
“A quick review of a comprehensive GAI report gives a concise, punchy overview of the structures, practices and processes that are in place to promote good corporate governance within an organisation,” says Ansie Romahlo, Executive Director, Centre for Corporate Governance. “Although the report does not indicate the quality of governance, it does give stakeholders an idea of how well-positioned an organisation is for good governance – a question of crucial concern in an era of corporate scandals.”
With all relevant information at hand, the easy-to-use, web-based GAI tool can be used to evaluate an organisation’s corporate governance within the space of a few hours. And for enhanced credibility in reporting, it is capable of being independently verified.
"Given the enormous emphasis placed today on a company’s reputation, it is of vital importance that companies demonstrate their efforts in ensuring good corporate governance,” says Romahlo, referring to a McKinsey report which found that people are prepared to pay up to a third more for shares in well –governed companies.
"With this in mind, the GAI helps organisations prove their diligence in running their organisations responsibly, a key factor in winning favour with citizens, prospective customers, shareholders, donors and others.”
Boasting a user-friendly interface, using the GAI tool is much like completing a regular web-based survey.
Depending on the organisation, the assessment phase takes the form of approximately 300 questions relating to structures, practices and processes. Each question refers to the applicable King III Principle, paragraph and JSE listing rule. The King III Practice Notes on the King Report that provide guidance as to implementation can also be accessed via the tool. Any questions may be directed to the IoDSA’s Centre for Corporate Governance via e-mail or telephonically.
Also, a nifty ‘flag’ feature enables the user to mark questions for later review. The search function allows one to deal with all questions surrounding, say, ‘internal audit’, and a ‘comments’ function enables one to explain an organisation’s individual practices. This comment is then incorporated in the reporting that it generated
The results are provided in a dashboard format that gives the user an overview of the state of corporate governance in the organisation per category and sub-category. Traffic light indicators (red, orange, yellow, green) in addition with rating symbols provide an indication of the measure of risk, relating to the individual categories and sub-categories of governance. There is also an overall rating symbol provided.
The results indicate the quantitative state of corporate governance, and confirm to what extent the organisation is structured for good governance. The results are however not an indication of how effectively and value-driven these structures are being used.
Reports cannot be manually adjusted, except that they allow for the user to enter comments to explain various ratings or decisions to deviate from the King Code’s recommendations. Also, a variety of reports from summaries to fully detailed reports are instantly generated by the software. The IoDSA are in discussions with various regulators, to find synergy in the requirements for submitting the same information in various forms.
The GAI has been launched with a module that’s specifically designed with public companies (in accordance with JSE SRI requirements) and large private companies in mind.
“This is useful both for listed companies, as well as those that are considering listing and would like to see how they measure up in terms of regulators’ requirements,” says Romahlo.
Further modules to come include public sector organisations, medical schemes, retirement funds, NPOs and smaller companies, with future consideration to integrate BEE rating functionality.
“An exciting prospect is that once a critical mass of organisations within a given sector is reached, the IoDSA will be able to establish a benchmark for corporate governance in a particular sector,” she says. This will, however, only involve organisations that have consented to their information being shared.
All information submitted is hosted securely by MWeb, with a guarantee of complete confidentiality. “In fact, the firewalls in place are so secure it’s really only a user’s username and password that become the weakest link.”
“As the IoDSA, we’re extremely excited about the GAI as a tool for promoting corporate governance in South Africa,” says Romahlo. “We’re confident of its general uptake and excited about the implications of its widespread use on growing overall trust in the operation of the public and private sectors in South Africa.”