Nurturing a Culture of Quality in Corporate Governance: The Bureau of Standards – Series 1

By Rtn Caroline Agonzibwa

For a long time, the subject of Standards eluded me. It related to abstract stuff; that I had no clue about or stuff I did not care for. A few years down the road and my journey has led me to Standards closer to home. Of particular interest to me is the subject of Corporate Governance.

So what is a Standard?

“It is a document that provides for common and repeated use, rules, guidelines or characteristics for products, services, or processes and production methods, including terminology, symbols, packaging, marking or labelling requirements as they apply to a product, service, process or production method;

So what does corporate governance have to do with Standards or vice versa?

The term Corporate Governance loosely defined refers to “a system by which companies/organisations are directed and controlled.”

We could define corporate governance in the Bureau as “a system of management, administration of public funds and control, aiming to the satisfaction of stakeholders and the improvement of UNBS’ function”

Corporate governance has been extensively studied as it relates to the private sector. Its efficiency and effectiveness has been proven by research to be beneficial in the private sector, particularly when applied to managing and controlling those organizations. Some of this efficiency and effectiveness is transferable when corporate governance is applied to public entities.

There is no real body of research on corporate governance that applies to the public sector. There has however been an increase worldwide in the attention paid to corporate governance in the public sector. At the forefront is particularly the British Commonwealth.

Perhaps this explains why my quest for an ISO standard on Corporate Governance was not only frustrating but futile as well. Thankfully, the British have, “more often than not”, been wise people. They have actually developed a Code of Practice for Delivering Effective Governance of Organisations BS 13500:2013 Copy right of the British Standards Institute published in 2013

One might ask, I still do not understand what corporate governance has to do with Standards or what Standards have to do with corporate governance.

Well, let us use this code as the yardstick/measure/gauge/benchmark for quality in assessing how the Uganda National Bureau of Standards is directed and controlled.

Direction and control in corporate governance relates to the function of Top Most Management (emphasis mine) by whatever name called; Board, Council etc. In the Bureau’s case, it is the National Standards Council.

About this code

It gives recommendations and guidance for the effective delivery of governance (system by which the organisation is directed, controlled and held accountable to achieve its core purpose) and is intended to promote an integrated system for effective governance that encompasses accountability, direction and control.

Those who are accountable for the organisation are ultimately responsible for everything undertaken in that organisation’s name. It is in the interest of the National Standards Council both individually and collectively to ensure that effective governance is in place so that they can indeed be accountable to all their stakeholders for everything undertaken by the organisation.

The governing body is likely to delegate the actual implementation of some aspects of corporate governance to the executive who may in turn delegate to other team members. This however does not alter the governing body’s accountability; however many layers may be undertaken, the ultimate accountability for governance remains with the governing body – the Council.

So what are the advantages of incorporating quality in corporate governance?

  1. Standards provide organizations with the shared vision, understanding, procedures, and vocabulary needed to meet the expectations of their stakeholders. Because standards present precise descriptions and terminology, they offer an objective and authoritative basis for organizations and consumers around the world to communicate and conduct business.
  2. It improves the functions of public organisations
  3. It aims at the provision of high-level quality services and the satisfaction of stakeholders.
  4. Contributes significantly to the improvement of management and administration.
  5. Confidence; In as far as the organizations of public sector are characterized by openness, integrity and accountability. The Bureau would take back and retain the public trust.
  6. Governance motivates the executives (management team) in control to meet their performance objectives in an efficient and effective way.

Rtn Caroline Agonzibwa is a non-scientist, a lawyer who has worked with the Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS)  for quite a while. She holds a LLB (Hons) Makerere University, LLM University of Cape Town, South Africa, PGD Legal Practice, and is an Advocate of the High Court of Uganda. She is also a member of Uganda Law Society, East Africa Law Society and the Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators UK.