Corporate governance award

02 October 2006

UCT has won the Excellence in Corporate Governance Award for higher education institutions at the PriceWaterhouseCoopers 2006 Higher Education Conference, held in Port Elizabeth in September.

It was presented to finance executive Brian Nelson at the gala function.

The dark legacy of mismanagement that toppled corporate giants like Enron show how poor corporate governance can lead to the collapse of any institution.

One thing is certain, however -sound corporate governance lessons are universal to all organisations. In South Africa, this is particularly true of the country's higher education institutions, so crucial to the country as a developing nation.

"Managing a South African higher education institution in an ever-changing environment poses a significant challenge," PWC's Mahomed Gani said at the conference.

"This is due to the continuously changing environment and mergers that place huge demands on council members' schedules and on the management of the institutions that are involved. Against this backdrop, it is essential for management to have access to reliable and up-to-date information."

To win the judges' collective nod, UCT was put through an evaluation of its corporate governance structure - including bodies like the Institutional Forum, Council, Senate and various watchdog committees such as risk, audit, remuneration and finance. The evaluation committee also scrutinised our annual financial statements which incorporate UCT's annual governance reports.

"The process invoved completing a question and submitting supporting schedules validating our responses. The evaluation committee assess from this whose governance is the best using the King II code as the benchmark."

Nelson believes UCT's success is a consequence of the institution-wide effort that has been made to improve our governance structures. "However, one never fully arrives in terms of corporate governance and a process of continuous improvement is vital to the institution."

For example, steps are underway to extend and embed the risk management process into faculties and, ultimately, departments.

"It is also a reputational issue," Nelson said of the award's value. "Good corporate government is essential to the institution's long-term health. If you aren't perceived to have sound corporate governance, it affects how all stakeholders perceive us. Poor governance, for example, might mean that donors would not be so keen to do business with us and parents not so keen to send their children here."

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