SABS’ stellar CEO quits

The Citizen (KZN) - - Business - Roy Cokayne

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.

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