Get corporate governance right and you get sustainability right – Gawaxab

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Staff Reporter

Windhoek-At a recently held event in the capital, the executive chairman of EOS Capital, Johannes Gawaxab, outlined that the key to getting sustainability right in public and private institutions is first to get corporate governance right. Gawaxab made the remarks at a Nedbank Namibia Corporate and Investment Banking luncheon, which was also attended by Leon Jooste, the Minister of Public Enterprises.

Gawaxab noted that in terms of corporate governance, as it relates to board composition, what’s needed is a broad set of good skills, good experiences, independence and diversity.

“When we talk about diversity, this is not only in terms of gender, but also age and thinking. Some boards are totally dominated by one or two people who usually dictate all discussions. That’s not diversity,” he said.
In terms of governance practices, Gawaxab encouraged boards to do self and independent valuations in order to determine effectiveness.

“When it comes to board dynamics, the biggest thing we need to be careful about is to avoid boards from becoming dysfunctional, which hampers the ability of directors to do their jobs as required. We need to focus on managing the reputation of our institutions because so much harm is done to the reputation of institutions when there are public fallouts between board members and executives.”

In addition, he said, what many don’t realize is that a company is actually a legal person that cannot talk, and that executives and board members are the only people who can speak on behalf of the company.
“We need to try and protect the image of our entities. I think to focus on corporate governance is to protect the long-term interests of our shareholders and key stakeholders. Get corporate governance right and you get sustainability right,” he said.

In rethinking corporate governance and “where we are reforming it in Namibia”, Gawaxab highlighted that it is of vital importance that it cannot be business as usual.

“We cannot pursue the same path as we have the past 27 years and expect a different outcome. We need to appoint suitable directors, we need to hold directors and managers accountable, and we need to make sure once appointed, we take care of this person that’s been entrusted to us. I’d like to believe that there is consensus about what needs to be done to announce corporate governance at a macro and a micro level. We need to act on this consensus and make fundamental paradigm and mind shifts. We also need to make tough choices because in the end we are our choices. Let us build ourselves a great story, a great governance legacy, wherever we are,” he said.

Lionel Matthews, the managing director of Nedbank Namibia, at the event emphasized the bank’s focus on fostering collaborations with the broader spectrum, including property finance and helping corporates, particularly in the public sector, to see how “we can work together”.

Preaching the same message was the public enterprises minister Jooste, who propagated private and public sector collaboration.

“We are in tough economic times and we need the private sector now more than ever. Let’s work together and form partnerships. I foresee opportunities and would like to encourage public-private partnerships. I believe that SOEs are in a position where they need to identify alternative and clever sources of funding. From the banks, there has been a very strong reliance on government guarantees in the past. I look forward to the day when we can move away from demanding government guarantees when it comes to funding SOE projects,” he said.

The minister also commended Nedbank on its corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities, saying they were authentic, and encouraged other corporates to follow suit.

The Nedbank Corporate and Investment Banking event was also attended by, amongst others, the chief executive officers and representatives from NamPower, the Motor Vehicle Accident Fund (MVA), NamibRe, NamWater and the University of Namibia.