SABS’ stellar CEO quits
The South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) was placed under administration in June 2018. Garth Strachan was appointed acting CEO in August 2018. And in October last year the state-owned standards and certification body reported a reduction in its net loss of almost 94% to R4.4 million in the year to March, from just shy of R71 million the previous year.
Despite this, Strachan believed he no longer enjoyed the confidence of department of trade and industry and competition director-general Lionel October. The SABS said in a statement that Strachan had resigned with effect from 6 February.
“I was sent to turn around decades of decline at the level of governance, at the level of finance, at the level of operations and restoring the confidence of industry and players in the institution,” Strachan said.
“But if you don’t enjoy the confidence [of the department of trade and industry and competition], as the acting CEO and the accounting officer, then it’s very difficult to turn an institution around, because it needs profound and fundamental repurposing,” he said.
Strachan, formerly deputy director-general of the industrial development division at the department of trade and industry, said October’s lack of confidence in him was evident from his remarks to the parliamentary portfolio committee on trade and industry, which visited the state-owned entity last Tuesday (4 February).
Strachan declined to comment on what October had told the committee.
However, Democratic Alliance (DA) shadow minister of trade and industry Dean Macpherson said the DA has been reliably informed that Strachan suddenly resigned after “a spectacular fallout” with October.
Macpherson said this stemmed from the portfolio committee’s oversight visit to the SABS last Tuesday, when they were told the entity was essentially bankrupt, would run out of cash in the next financial year, and was battling to attract thousands of customers lost under the previous delinquent board. That board was dissolved in June 2018.
Strachan said industrial efforts in South Africa would be extremely difficult without a functioning, competitive, worldclass standards and conformity assessment institution, which the SABS should be. He said there was a strong correlation between successful industrialised countries and standards and conformity assessments and the existence of robust, productive, well-functioning, technical, quality infrastructure institutions – of which the SABS was the most important.
Macpherson said there could be no doubt Strachan’s departure would affect exporters who rely on the SABS for quality assurance in international markets.