Training her passion
The approach to training is extremely important
TWO YEARS AGO the much sought-after green card of the United States was granted to Minette Smit but, like a date who has been left waiting for too long, she turned it down. Smit (45) – founder and director of Compliance Online – decided to stay in South Africa and make a positive contribution to its economy.
She now heads a successful business that develops and implements efficient compliance programmes for the private as well as the public sector. The programmes focus on, among other things, SA’s Competition Act and anti-corruption legislation and will soon include our new consumer legislation.
Smit’s extensive career experience in the academic world and competition sector prepared her excellently for this task. In addition, she enjoys educating clients and guiding them through the maze of compliance training.
Too many companies approach compliance training from the viewpoint it must serve as “extenuating circumstances” after they’ve been found guilty of uncompetitive practice, Smit says. “That’s the wrong approach. The reason for companies to conduct compliance training is to determine exactly what’s going on in the company so that risk can be managed proactively.
“In most cases, training is reactive: a company is first called to account and penalised with a stiff fine and, as part of its agreement with the competition authorities, a compliance programme is implemented, of which training is one component. By then the company’s image has already been tarnished.
“Companies must realise the training facet of the compliance programme must be approached with the necessary seriousness. Training must be given in ordinary, everyday language. The legal terminology must be simplified and the practical application of the legislation must be illustrated in the working situation – otherwise employees won’t really benefit.”
Precisely because of the many “grey areas” in SA’s Competition Act and its regulations – which are difficult to interpret – it’s required a lot of improvement and refinement by both South African and overseas experts to prepare the training material to make it accessible to all, Smit says.
Her interest in the field was stimulated by former University of the Orange Free State principal Professor Frederick Fourie. His doctorate at Harvard University was about industrial economy, with a strong emphasis on competition. When she was doing her Honours with Fourie, Smit’s interest in the field was stimulated so much her Honours, Master’s and Doctoral studies all covered various aspects of this field. Her Doctorate thesis focused on the influence of the concentration of power on labour and wages.
When the Competition Commission was formed, Fourie (who had been involved in drafting the Act) urged her to apply for the position of chief economist. She was seconded to the commission in Pretoria in 1999, where she managed its policy and management department and served on its executive committee.
As chief economist, Smit had to ensure the commission’s economic analyses of cases were conducted correctly. She was also involved in a number of high profile amalgamation cases in the financial services, information technology, healthcare and transport sectors. And she also had to keep an eye on the research into a large number