NIOCCSA set to uplift the Consulting Industry in SA

2014-07-22 15:24

Cape Town – The National Institute of Organisational Compliance Consulting of Southern Africa has announced its strategic objectives for 2015.

As a recently new addition to the professionalization of practitioners and advisors operating within the multi-disciplinary arena of Corporate Governance and Compliance, NIOCCSA is a professional body founded to enhance the public image of the consulting industry in Southern Africa. The professions they represent functions mainly in Occupational Health, Safety & Security, Environmental Management, Quality Management and Corporate Social Responsibility. It links closely with the functions performed by the Compliance Institute of SA and the Institute of Risk Management of SA.

NIOCCSA also provides for public protection by maintaining a National Member Register of professionals who have been subjected to a rather extensive verification process, ensuring that a member only gets listed after all their competencies and conduct have been assessed via various sources.

The Institute have since its start in the last quarter of 2013 been criticised extensively by certain groups of practitioners, rival professional bodies, and South Africans working abroad in similar functions. This did however not deter their management team, who have already set up a few international relationships with similar bodies.

“For us, it is not about member numbers; we know the pool is small and shared with other bodies. It is about the market value of our members, who generally are competing for jobs and contracts in a market that is oversupplied and riddled with careless practitioners. It is about promoting those who chose organisational compliance consulting as a profession and not just a nice alternative to unemployment” said Chief Executive Officer, Nico J Smit, a professional with specialist knowledge in Human Resources and Industrial Relations.

Access to the Register is limited

“We introduced the National Register as a public record of people’s achievements in the profession, added by our own “Stamp of recommendation” in the form of various professional designations. In our new strategy however, we opted to restrict public access to the register as a first step. This was needed because of the free membership offered to Jobseekers, which were abused by consultants who wanted to get a free listing without being subjected to the verification process” said Smit.

“We do not turn down any applicant meeting our entry level requirements, but when it comes to the Accreditation of professionals who works for on professional fees, we do require more than just a CV and copies of degrees.”

The process is still fairly simple but it now includes verification of everybody listed on the register, regardless of membership type applied for.

Four Steps to listing:

Individuals first have to open a user account online. This will involve the “purchase” of the application pack, completing an application and submission of supporting documents. Once received, the application is sent to the Verification Standards Committee for review.

When accepted, the applicant’s details are manually entered on the register and (s)he can then edit the profile created on the Register. The VCS assigns a professional status, which the applicant cannot change. This ensures the status is the expressed endorsement of NIOCCSA and not the member’s own opinion.

“Another reason to the changes is the Protection of Personal Information Act. We have to ensure the register complies with the requirements and not publicly list information which the Act requires us to protect. This includes ID numbers, home addresses, personal emails etc.”

The biggest change however is the introduction of limits per designation. New applications for each professional category will be limited annually. The 535 current member companies will remain unaffected. Practitioners are limited to 200 per annum, whilst only 50 new Accredited Professional Designations will be awarded.

“Although these restrictions will have a negative impact on possible revenue, it is more important for NIOCCSA to remain committed to the growth, promotion and support of the top professionals in the country. The Status of an Accredited Practitioner or Accredited Professional should be a sought after designation and not just another title.”

The limitation on member applications will also focus the PECB development program to those who are really interested in career advancement and not just seeking recognition by a professional body.

“NIOCCSA remains committed to the upliftment of the professionals in South Africa and continues to liaise with international bodies for the acceptance of local practitioners. We remain open to mutual collaboration with local Professional Associations and have already included the competency criteria of the Compliance Institute of SA, the Institute of Risk Management of SA and the Institute of People Management in our Accreditation standards.” Smit said.

The underdog of professional bodies

Whilst NIOCCSA seems to be the only body in public view, with their continued marketing campaign to promote the National Member Register, this move might dampen the need for another “hidden” record of competent persons as kept by all other professional bodies in South Africa. Part of the problem is the fierce competition to gain members from a limited pool. However, the NIOCCSA model for official endorsement of its members, the development programs offered via an internationally accredited certification body and the high entry requirements makes this the ideal vehicle for astute professionals to team up with.

Another advantage they have is the fact that they offer internal training to members on the Occupational Health & Safety Act as part of their highest accolade of professionalism in SHEQ management. Professional bodies are limited in their training offerings due to the public policies of the South African Qualifications Authority – SAQA, which imposes the duty on Professional Bodies to make use of third party training providers where the training is a requirement for membership. NIOCCSA opposes this policy as it believes the Professional Bodies should play a more active role in the training and development of its members via its more experienced members. Who better to educate the practitioner than an expert in his/her own field?

 The Profession of Organisational Compliance Consulting is fairly new in SA, if not the first in the world using this term. In essence it is a person with a skills set that comprises two or more current professions (like Health & Safety plus Quality or Engineering plus Quality) who has the ability to save a company money by integrating their management systems into one strategic plan. Since the introduction of ISO standards in SA back in 1992, many other standards have emerged, all working along the same process. Companies spend unnecessary costs on running separate processes to meet the obligations of each of these management systems. Integrating it into an Organisational Compliance Program would lessen the workload and increase efficacy of the business.

The back-bone of this newly coined profession, is the King Reports on Corporate Governance, to which ISO 26000 is aligned. Unlike most compliance officers functioning in the financial and legal arena, the organisational compliance practitioner focuses on the strategy and culture within the business that allows for regulatory compliance in labour law, public protection, consumer protection and protection of the environment. It is a multi-facetted profession, with its own fields of specialities.

Although the King Reports focus on public enterprises, their actions and decisions has a ripple effect that influences the compliance requirements of every single business within their supply chain; including upcoming sole proprietors and EME’s. All, regardless of shape and size has “business related” laws they need to comply with.

People interested to read more about NIOCCSA are invited to visit their website nioccsa.org.za

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