Interview: ‘We are catalysts to economic growth’

Chartered Governance and Accountancy Institute in Zimbabwe president Jonathan Dube (JD)

THE Chartered Governance and Accountancy Institute in Zimbabwe recently held its annual conference in Victoria Falls. The professionals gathered to discuss, among other things, how they can contribute to economic growth and assist  government to attain Vision 2030. Our business reporter Melody Chikono (MC) caught up with the institute’s president Jonathan Dube (JD) to discuss issues, including the role of corporate governance professional as catalysts to economic transformation.

MC: Can you give us a brief of what transpired during this annual conference?

JD: We held our annual conference under the theme: “Attaining Vision 2030: Chartered Governance and Accountancy Professionals - Catalysts for Economic Transformation”. The event was very successful. We looked at various issues that the chartered governance and accountants professionals can work on to ensure Vision 2030 is achieved as stated in the NDS1 (National Development Strategy 1) document and subsequently, in NDS2. As catalysts to economic transformation, there are critical issues that we looked at specifically. One of the main issues we discussed is ethical leadership. For us to achieve Vision 2030, we need ethical leaders. We also spoke about integrity.

We need members with integrity who can observe their professional conduct. We looked at issues to do with mind renewal. We are in a world where things are changing every minute and every hour. So to achieve that we need people who have a mind-set that is focused on transformation and achieving the intended goals. We discussed issues to do with sustainability reporting and accounting. Once those issues are adhered to, the possibility of achieving an upper middle-income society by 2030 will be very high.

MC: You spoke about sustainability and mining. We all know the issues with mining in Zimbabwe concerning irresponsible mining that is happening. What can governance and accounting professionals do in ensuring sustainability?

JD: As you put it, yes there are areas where we realise that irresponsible mining is taking place. As governance professionals, we are saying if we engage with those that are into mining, as we are already focused on, sustainability, will be much important. The idea will be to educate individuals who are into this sector about sustainability. They should know about the issues of reclamation of land wherever mining has been conducted. It is part of sustainability reporting to know what should be done with the land after the extraction of minerals. We still want to have that land being reused for other activities.

The (financial) reporting framework covers issues to do with sustainability that when a mine is being set up, as an example, there should be closure and exit clauses, which give space to the activities that will be done after the extraction of minerals.

Some go into recreational parks and others, if it’s an open pit, can actually turn it to a dam for irrigation purposes. We want to restore the land to its previous position before mining. That is what sustainability covers.

MC: From what I picked, there is a strong nexus between poor corporate government and corruption. What is your take on this?

JD: True, there is a relationship. If the governance is poor, corruption is also rife in that the checks and balances will not be there. Those that are charged with governance, if they put in weak controls, corruption will be rife. If you go through reports of government, certain local authorities and many more that are coming out in the press, you will notice that there has been corruption. Wherever there has been corruption, poor governance structures have been a catalyst within those entities.

To buttress this, you will realise that we are lowly ranked in terms of governance, and we are at about 150 out of 180 countries. Those that are below us are mainly African countries and some South American countries like Bolivia. This shows that our government, as a nation, is not where we want it to be. That is why we also find that even cases of corruption are high as shown by the press. Government structures are not as they are expected to be.

MC: What role can governance and accountancy professionals play to ensure that the governance issues in Zimbabwe are corrected?

JD: The theme that we were running at this annual conference is that we are catalyst to economic transformation and that is what we are advocating for. We already have trained people in government through our institution.

We have already trained people in accounting through our institution. The idea is to have governance professionals in various entities directing and advising the boards in as far as government issues are concerned. The debt that we are assuming as a nation and as entities, some of it is coming through leakages that are happening through poor government structures.

However, our coming in will improve how resources are being managed, controlled and distributed. If we have got people who attend to governance, who make decisions or advise those who are making decisions in those areas, debt will also go down.

MC: You have spoken about what the professionals can do. What are the challenges that professionals are going through currently in trying to curb the debt situation in Zimbabwe?

JD: It is a cocktail of issues. The whole issue about government is anchored in politics. We do have people who are prepared to accept normal governance. There are also issues to do with self-interest. Entities in government departments are being run on the basis of self-interest. Those are the challenges that professionals are facing.

We do not want to enter into an organisation that does not recognise proper government structures, where nepotism rules and self-interest is driving those individuals, where there is no political will to support the need for governance, especially if you are talking to public sector entities.

In the private sector, some deny proper governance structures because they are the owners of companies.

Political will and nepotism within the systems are the major problems in achieving good corporate governance and that is what professionals are facing in terms of advising institutions about proper governance.

MC: As an institute, how are you encouraging your professionals to overcome these challenges?

JD: What we have done is to engage the government through the Corporate Governance Unit, which is under the Office of the President and Cabinet, to engage them in training board members, executives on governance issues. This has gained traction.

If you now talk to the peers or the corporate governance professionals, you will tell me that compliance in as far as governance is concerned has risen from 50% to 75%.

We have said engagement and advocacy are the key issues in terms of achieving some of these things. Some of the practices are done out of ignorance of what government is concerned about.

So we have been training professionals and also signed Memorandum of Agreements (MoUs) which are operational. These MoUs were not just signed with the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission, we have also signed them with the Zimbabwe Republic Police in terms of training police in forensic accounting, forensic auditing and other related courses. We have also done that with the Zimbabwe Deposit Protection Commission (ZDPC).

 As you know this is more of an eye on the banks in as far as protecting the depositor’s money. We are having a diploma in compliance through the commission.

MC: When do you expect to see the fruits of your labour? JD: This is ongoing. As an institute, we conduct what we call ‘Excellence in Corporate Governance Awards’ annually. By doing that we see who is improving from the previous year. It’s an ongoing thing. The Excellence in Corporate Governance Awards also gives us a measure to see how far we have gone in terms of influence and ensuring that governance has been spread.

MC: Now that the conference has come and gone, what should we look forward to between now and the next conference?

JD: Like I mentioned, we have the Excellence in Corporate Governance Awards. It is an event that we conduct every year in December. We are already in the process of analysing mainly listed companies and parastatals.

This is going to come in December, and it is going to reflect the efforts that we have done. Then we will continuously do training programmes up to the next conference. This conference has come up with resolutions which we are then going to review as we go along.

For some of these resolutions, we are going to implement between now and the next conference. When we choose speakers for the next conference, they will be guided by these resolutions.

Related Topics