Chartered secretaries understand that good governance is fundamental to good business decision-making and organisational performance, says Stephen Sadie, chief executive of Chartered Secretaries Southern Africa (CSSA).
He says CSSA is a professional institute for enabling company secretaryship and corporate governance, as well as being an expert commentator and thought leader in southern Africa on governance matters.
CSSA is 103 years old and represents Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa and Swaziland. It is the oldest division of the Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators, which exists in 70 countries. CSSA is also affiliated to the Corporate Secretaries International Association (CSIA), which has 70,000 members worldwide. Sadie has served as the international secretary of CSIA for the past three years.
"Through our influence with companies and regulators in southern Africa, and the work of our members, CSSA leads in shaping the governance agenda and promoting the best practice essential for organisational performance," says Sadie.
"The career-long programme of study comprises attainment of professional qualifications and requires continuing professional development, which ensures that members remain on the cutting edge of developments," says Sadie.
"Today, unlike 50 years ago when the company secretary was often merely the person delegated with taking the minutes at board meeting, company secretaries are now high-ranking professionals with a broad base of skills.
"Trained in governance, law, accounting and strategy, chartered secretaries provide a focal point for independent advice and guidance on the conduct of business, governance and compliance," Sadie says.
He says the governance professional's role is to ensure compliance with the Companies Act and King 3, to safeguard the integrity of the organisation and to promote high standards of ethical behaviour. The company secretary has a significant role in assisting the board members.
The CSSA is the only professional qualification that focuses specifically on company secretaryship and corporate governance. He advises all lawyers, chartered accountants and other professionals who are active in this field to top up their existing qualification by sitting for the CSSA's four board exams. The CSSA qualification is registered on the National Qualifications Framework at level eight.
Sadie says the company secretary's range of responsibilities and duties can include anything from providing advice to the directors and officers in relation to directors' duties and other aspects of the Companies Act to the implementation of risk management frameworks and advising the board on corporate governance principles.
The company secretary is no longer just a function of preparing meetings and being responsible for minutes, but must implement corporate strategy, give effect to the board's decisions and ensure communication with the company's stakeholders.
"Today, the company secretary is accountable for ensuring the organisation complies with the full range of regulatory, legal and reporting requirements from accounting and financial to human resource, legal, environmental, taxation, trade practices, occupational health and safety, and even property management," Sadie added.
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