Moral Compass and Pivot of Roads Agency Limpopo
AND PIVOT OF ROADS AGENCY LIMPOPO
The glue that holds the Board of Directors and the executive management of the Roads Agency Limpopo (RAL) together is an ambivert woman who can stand her ground.
Tebogo Kekana has been serving as the RAL Company Secretary with distinction since her appointment by the board in 2015. She has served two boards since RAL was effectively returned from being placed under Section 100 administration between 2011 and 2014 after a tumultuous period of mismanagement and systematic failure of corporate governance. “The Board has a good relationship with management and that makes working with the Chairperson and the CEO a pleasant experience, as I never find myself caught between two differing views or positions,” says Ms Kekana, a middle child herself with two siblings – an older sister and a younger brother.
At RAL, the Company Secretary reports to the Chairperson of the Board of Directors functionally, but administratively reports to the Chief Executive Officer (CEO).
A Company Secretary, generically, is the chief corporate governance officer of an entity. The King IV Report (2016) on Corporate Governance best sums a Company Secretary in one word as the “conscience” of a company.
The primary role of a Company Secretary is to give guidance and advice to the Board, as a collective, and to the Directors, individually, on their duties and on all laws and regulations that the company is subjected to. A Company Secretary also has to ensure that management executes all resolutions taken by the Board in a manner as determined by the Board.
“In addition to the common law duties of a Company Secretary, there are those statutory duties that are prescribed by Section 88 of the Companies Act, No 71 of 2008, which include amongst others, ensuring proceedings at board meetings are properly recorded and kept safe; bringing to the attention of the Board any law that is applicable to or affects RAL; certifying that all returns are lodged and filed, and ensuring that Annual Financial Statements are submitted to the shareholder within the prescribed period,” says Ms Kekana.
The shareholder of RAL is the Limpopo Provincial government and incumbent MEC for the Limpopo Department of Public Works, Roads and Infrastructure acts as its representative.
She says the conceptualisation of the 2015-2020 turnaround strategy and its implementation has been very beneficial for RAL. “I keep a resolution register that records and ensures that all resolutions that should be implemented by management are executed accordingly.”
She says when the Board assumed its tenure in 2014; they developed a turnaround strategy to improve the performance of RAL in accordance with its predetermined objectives and to ensure an improved audit outcome.
“The Board, through management, implemented the strategy so thoroughly that RAL moved from a disclaimer in 2012/13, and adverse audit opinions for the 2013/14 and 2014/15 financial years, to qualified and unqualified audit opinions in the 2015/16 and 2016/17 financial years respectively.”
Ms Kekana is a township girl, born and raised in Mahwelereng on the periphery of Mokopane in the Waterberg District Municipality of Limpopo Province. Despite the then demure and gauche teenager attending lower and senior primary schools in the locality of home, at Nomalema and Nonchimudi respectively, her formative years got revved-up at the hothouse of boarding school at Prestige College in Hammanskraal, outside Pretoria before going to matriculate at First National College (FNC) in City Deep, Johannesburg in 1995.
“THE CONCEPTUALISATION OF THE 2015-2020 TURNAROUND STRATEGY AND ITS IMPLEMENTATION HAS BEEN VERY BENEFICIAL FOR RAL”
She credits her disciplinarian father, who is her first role model, for steering her early career path. Her father wouldn’t countenance her studying towards any qualification other than medicine, law or qualifications of such societal gravitas that wouldn’t lead to a ‘good job’.
Her earlier wish, for the record, was to be a creative in the fashion world.
Her tedious educational journey continued with a couple of hiccups after school. First up, she registered for a Bachelor of Arts Degree (Linguistics and Anthropology) at the University of the Witwatersrand, but after a forgettable year she finally capitulated to parental preference and enrolled for a Bachelor of Laws (LLB) degree with the University of South Africa.
However, her restive personality, being a teenager, did not match the discipline required of distance learning, and her father posted her to a residential university.
There, at the University of the North (the now University of Limpopo) – the law faculty of which is renowned for producing respectable graduates - she continued with her legal studies in 1999, completing the four-year LLB in 2002. Even at that alma mater she hardly found her feet, as she puts it, “campus was so much out of my comfort zone that I had to get my degree and leave.” But the rest, as the cliché goes, is history. Notwithstanding, for an outsider at least, that her redoubtable father might have studied vicariously through her, she admits having grown to embrace the career chosen for her.
“I am thankful to him today because I cannot imagine myself as any other professional than as a lawyer,” she says gleefully.
“My father followed an aspirational career himself, and believed I too should achieve no less.”
Prior to joining RAL, Ms Kekana had stints as Company Secretary at Limpopo Business Support Agency (LIBSA), a forerunner for the Limpopo Economic Development Agency (LEDA), and latterly at Corridor Mining Resources - a subsidiary of LEDA, under full control of the provincial government through the Limpopo Department of Economic Development, Environment and Tourism.
But before she got exposed to the Company Secretary career path though, she had legal stints in as diverse environments, and perhaps on the continent, as juxtaposed, as a military legal practitioner in the South African National Defence Force (Army) and as a legal advisor for a human rights NGO.
She is now closer to completing her qualification as a Chartered Secretary, which will cement her role as a corporate governance specialist.
However, she is also at the cusp of the start of a next age decade. This is the age when, according to psychologists, people have inclination to make major life decisions or revisit unfulfilled life goals. More so for her, what’s with the mantra that life begins at 40.
But they say old habits die hard. She has now set herself a new goal of ending as a judge or Speaker of the National Assembly in the Parliament of the Republic of South Africa.
Her endearing and radiant smile is an unpleasant facade of her onerous physiological tribulations. She has been living with Endometriosis, a common and yet silent incurable condition that affects millions of women, since she was barely a teenager.
Since she was eventually diagnosed sixteen years ago, she has come to embrace her condition. She has a foundation and is an untiring activist in raising awareness of female reproductive health medical conditions. Her goal is for the Council for Medical Schemes to recognise these conditions and add them to the list of chronic illnesses in terms of the schemes benefit structures.
“I’d also like to fight to see the cost of reproductive health treatments for conditions like Adenomyosis, Endometriosis and infertility reduced so that every female person who needs them can have access to those treatments,” she says.
As she previously revealed in a ‘RAL Cares’ feature (Mmileng, Q1 2017), she has had an average of two surgical procedures a year. A surgical procedure is the next, and only, treatment option available at the moment when the initial medication treatment fails. Ever irrepressible, incidentally part of Ms Kekana’s Mmileng Big Interview was done between one of her hospitalisations and convalescing.
“I also want employers to recognise these conditions as a pandemic affecting half of the workforce in the workplace.”
Professionally, she is in the process of developing a comprehensive enterprise-wide compliance checklist that, she hopes, will help in checking whether or not RAL complies with all statutory and regulatory requirements applicable to it.
“This will assist in keeping the Board apprised of the compliance status of RAL on a quarterly basis,” she says.
“The immediate priority in the last couple of years had been to address the historical damage that had been inflicted on the organisation. This redress was done by, amongst other things, introducing internal controls and systems to ensure adequate and efficient management of the affairs of RAL.”
She said it is satisfactory that RAL has retained its unqualified audit opinion from the Auditor-General of South Africa for the 2017/18 financial year without regressing. And she expects the Agency to have achieved a clean audit opinion by 2019/20 financial year when the current Medium-Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) period lapses. (Story on page 10)
“THE IMMEDIATE PRIORITY … HAD BEEN TO ADDRESS THE HISTORICAL DAMAGE … INFLICTED ON THE ORGANISATION.”
Kekana is happy with the implementation of RAL’s turnaround strategy and expects RAL to achieve a clean audit opinion within the next two financial years.