State-owned entities poor at disclosure
LEVELS of disclosure at South Africa’s state-owned companies (SOC) are generally dismal, although a number of companies such as Eskom, Transnet and Telkom indicate that world-class standards are attainable.
While there are indications that reporting standards are improving, in a few notable cases such as the Central Energy Fund, the SABC and the Post Office the already poor levels of disclosure have actually deteriorated.
Things are particularly grim at the Independent Development Trust, where for the second year running no annual report was available.
The latest survey of integrated reporting trends at SOCs, which is undertaken annually by audit firm Nkonki, reveals a rather grim picture of patches of excellence overshadowed by near indifference by many of our SOCs.
The results of the survey, which is based on annual reports, indicate that the new public enterprises minister, who is responsible for most but not all of the SOCs, is facing major challenges.
The survey looked at financial 2013 reports published by the 20 largest SOCs, which are described in terms of the Public Finance Management Act as schedule 2 companies, to ascertain whether minimum disclosure requirements were being adhered to.
It focused on disclosure relating to 18 areas, including ethical leadership, board membership and remuneration, audit committees, internal audits, governance of risk, sustainability, compliance with laws and regulations, and integrated reporting.
On average, the SOCs exceeded 50% of the “expected minimum disclosure requirements” for just over half of the 18 areas about which they are required to provide information.
The best levels of disclosure were in areas relating to financials, and the worst related to sustainability issues.
Details on directors such as their qualifications and remunerations were also apparently hard to come by.
Thuto Masasa, a partner at Nkonki, said that the survey, now in its third year, did reveal the encouraging fact that the overall levels of disclosure were improving.
She said that companies such as Eskom and Transnet were playing a proactive role in developing disclosure standards on an international scale.
Both are participating in the International Integrated Reporting Council pilot programme.
Ms Masasa said the survey aimed to encourage the SOCs to improve their standards of disclosure.
She noted that unlisted SOCs did not have the benefit of the pressure imposed through a JSE listing.
Only 10 of the 20 SOCs managed to achieve an overall rating above 50%.
In addition to Eskom, Transnet and Telkom, which came first, second and third respectively, Denel, IDC, South African Forestry Company, Development Bank, South African Nuclear Energy, Land and Agricultural Development Bank and Air Traffic and Navigation Services all managed to scrape a pass.
The 10 SOCs that failed to make the grade were Trans-Caledon Tunnel Authority, Airports Company of South Africa, South African Airways, Broadband Infraco, SA Express, Alexkor, SABC, Armaments Corporation, Central Energy Fund and Post Office.
22 June 2014