‘Economic environment in Zim difficult to operate in’

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CUTTING-EDGE INTERVIEW

THE Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators of Zimbabwe (Icsaz) held its annual conference in Victoria Falls last week under the theme “Chartered Secretaries Influencing Economic Success”. At the conference, Icsaz president Letitia Gaga said the economy’s performance fell far short of peoples’

expectations largely caused by technological developments of the fourth industrial revolution, changing international co-operation and shifting domestic politics which has left large parts of society feeling disillusioned. Besides the initiatives to drive and inform economic progress, business reporter Melody Chikono (MC) this week spoke to Icsa director-general Timothy Sheeny (TS, pictured) who pointed out that Zimbabwe remained one of the countries difficult to deal with both for the institute and for the practitioners given the environment they are operating in.

Below are excerpts of the interview: MC: You gave us a history of the institute dating back to decades ago. What’s your view of the institute today?
TS: Today there is a challenge, but there is also an opportunity.

This profession has owned the space of being the experts in governance in the organisations for 120 years. The chartered secretary’s role is just as important today as it was when the profession first emerged after the establishment of limited companies in the nineteenth century.

Well into the 1970s for the most part, corporations were run for all stakeholders. Labour unions were strong. Everyone had a job for life and a pension and companies invested in communities.

However, this social contract became eroded and replaced by the concept of the primacy of the shareholder and the overriding goal of increasing profits to maximise shareholder value.

With the erosion of the social contract the community began to lose faith in the corporation and capitalism. People questioned the excessive pay earned by chief executives and increasing gap between their pay and that of ordinary employees, the massive layoffs of workers, environmental damage and climate change, and exploitation in the supply chain.

Today it’s important to recognise where one’s space is and how to contribute to the betterment of organisations.MC: What is your comment on the conduct of today’s professionals in terms of cooperate governance?

TS: In Africa it’s probably more relevant but that does not mean it’s not relevant anywhere else. Chartered governance professionals are trained to recognised good corporate governance behaviour and bad corporate behaviour if they see bad corporate behaviour everyone expects them to expose it, but we also have to be realistic and practical it’s not easy to do that. So I have always respected an individual’s decisions to go slow, but it’s a challenge for today’s corporate governance professionals particularly in Africa to embed a culture of good corporate governance, but hope they cultivate a culture that helps them to do so.MC: How can we relate poor corporate governance and corruption, especially in Zimbabwe?

The hope is that good corporate governance will always expose corruption and can prevent it. Well, individuals will always find ways to commit fraud and to be corrupt. Hopefully, if you have an overwhelming response you can minimise the opportunities of corruption.

MC: You will agree with me the Zimbabwean environment is kind of different interms of economic atmosphere. How should Zimbabwean professionals thrive in upholding ethics?

TS: There is no question Zimbabwe is the most challenging environment to operate in. No question about it. So for corporate governance professionals operating here, I would hope they feel that they can, if necessary speak out, but they operate in an a environment rife with corruption. So to expect someone to blow a while in an environment like this is a bigger expectation.

I would hope that the professionals here would expose what they see, but to be honest, they have to do it in a careful and candid manner.
MC: You spoke about a number of changes that are looming within the institution including name change. How do you expect those changes to bring about positive transformation in the profession?

TS: The institute has a lot of work to evolve and change what the aspiring professionals do. I think we have generated a programme to train young people who aspire to be governance professionals in Zimbabwe and elsewhere.

We work with young people so it will take them time. Skill is one thing and knowledge is one thing.Maturity and judgment is another and it will take time, but I think this organisation has got what it takes to provide aspiring young chartered governance professionals with the skills they need to progress.

MC: What are the measures you are putting in place to integrate Zimbabwe into the global system interms of aligning the institution itself?
TS: Zimbabwe is slightly quite unique compared to the rest of the organisation. It has a membership an inspiring membership which is much more populated by accountants so here the classic role is someone who is, hopefully, a finance director and a complete secretary.

We have recognised that and the institute in Zimbabwe has qualifying programmes that is leaning towards the accounting profession, as well as underpinning governance.

MC: What the most worrying thing about Zimbabwe given your professionals are operating from here?TS: What worries me is that the institute has a mission to be a leader in good corporate governance. Even if you do well and you are in an environment which is troubled, there is a disconnect. These professionals and the people within it need to be sensitive to the environment they are working in. The economic environment in Zimbabwe is without question difficult.

TS: What the role of these professionals in economic development? MC: The role is to assist the organisation to be run as effectively as possible. If it is run effectively, whatever it does or produces, it will produce at maximum level of efficiency and if that happens collectively across the country, slowly, the environment will get better.

But a governance professional from our membership can help the organisation make better decisions which will assist the company and the country.
MC: Drawing lessons from the conference how do you see Icsaz in the next two to three years?

TS: This profession is at crossroads, everyone wants a job from a governance bandwagon so every very profession want a piece of it. This institute will assist its members to give them the nerve to grab the territory the territory which is theirs. That what’s the institute will do.

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