A Note on the 2020 IRMSA Risk Report

by Carel van der Merwe
12 March 2020

As a key stakeholder, we are proud of the work being done by the IRMSA-team in developing an insightful perspective on South African risk. The IRMSA Risk Report is starting to feature as a valuable reference for businesses when considering and addressing their unique risks.

Our leadership dilemma is corroborated in the report - confirming that as a society we need to expect more from our leaders and hold them to account where they are impacting business and society negatively.

The well-publicised deterioration of the South African norms is an indictment on all of us as suggested by Einstein – “The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch and do nothing.”

The Challenge to Change

There is evidence of a change in attitude towards corruption and poor leadership, which if given time will hopefully triumph.

We cannot underestimate the extent of the challenge to weed out corruption and will need to recognise each business’ responsibility in rooting out any practice that creates an environment where it will survive. This can be achieved if leadership teams diligently adopt and aspire to meet the guidance on corporate governance provided by KING IV.

A mature approach to regulation needs to also be considered as part of reducing risk. As odd as the comment may sound when more rules are seen as the answer, it is more often a sign that the current rules are not being followed, which inherently is a management issue. 

If we do not manage and treat non-compliance a new set of rules will only result in more rules being broken or not complied with; so increasing focus on policing the existing regulations will more likely have a positive effect on compliance and by extension will improve our risk profiles.

Risk Realities

It would have been an easy guess to say a key risk in South Africa is the availability of electricity. Part of the evidence referred to earlier is with ESKOM. Clearly the Minister and Management have started down a path of recovering debt and improving maintenance. An increasing focus on renewable energy and the efforts to reduce the average cost of generating power will be part of our agendas moving forward. This is a risk that can be eliminated if a level-headed and collaborative approach is adopted.

CyberRisk is, personally speaking, the most significant and impactful risk we face. The internet and the ability to communicate in the way we already do can be significantly disrupted remotely and anonymously. When considering a crippling worst-case scenario; who would even know how to operate in an environment before 1970? Suffice to say responsible citizens and businesses need to collaborate with governments to manage or eradicate this scourge from society.

Our role as risk practitioners is becoming even more important when one considers the aforementioned and many other risks faced by society. An informed view on risk and risk management is critical for a sustainable business and community.