No business without compliance and risk officers

29 July 2020

Written by Adv. Modidima Mannya, IRMSA Risk Chat Contributor 

While the Finance Officers battle to manage budgets and make do with limited and constrained financial resources, the Human Resources Officers battle with the implications of having to retrench, the Strategy and Marketing Officers battle with business repositioning and more importantly; the Compliance and Risk Officers ought to be battling with the complex compliance and risk environment, which has since developed during this pandemic.

Risk Management Aversion – to be overcome

Compliance and risk management is not necessarily taken seriously in many organisations. Most Compliance and Risk Officers are misunderstood, avoided and / or even disliked. This is mainly because at the end of the day, they tend to ask pertinent questions and raise issues which determine the life and future of an organisation and its staff- issues that management don’t necessarily want to deal with, or merely just not ready to deal with.

The changes brought about by Covid–19 complicates an already complex operating environment for Compliance and Risk Officers. The compliance requirements of Covid–19 has added to the pressures experienced by the Compliance and Risk Officers.

Business continuity and operational survival of any organisation is now entirely dependent on the risk management’s capacity to effectively manage compliance and risks.

Reduce risk exposure now!

The new normal has heightened the risk profile of every organisation and redefined  company’s strategic risks. This means that the Compliance and Risk Officers must now  adjust to discharging their responsibilities in a high-pressure environment. It is in moments like these when matters detrimental to the organisation, like corruption, mismanagement and various other acts can expose an organisation to serious high operational risks.

Many organisations faced a sudden shutdown where even existing business continuity plans could not be implemented. Those who could have staff work from home were suddenly faced the additional cost of providing staff with work-from-home resources.

Good governance in unusual times

In many instances, emergency procurement became the buzzword. Labour intensive and small businesses were forced into immediate and unplanned retrenchments. This is all evidence that risk management was not taken seriously, or has not worked as it should have. Compliance and Risk Officers have to work through these various controversies and complexities to define and ensure good governance in an abnormal situation.

The first immediate challenge is whether leaders of organisations appreciate that every single decision must now be compliance and risk informed. Equally, Compliance and Risk Officers face the critical challenge of appreciating that they now work in wholly undefined environment which requires thinking on one’s feet.Do

Mitigation out: think prevention and elimination –

As government eases lockdown and businesses re-open and more social and economic activities take place, Compliance and Risk Officers need to be able to critically analyze the implications of any activity associated with their organisations for effective inputs. The normal approach to compliance and risk management is mitigation. In the current environment, risk prevention and immediate elimination is the new normal.

As an example, infection control and prevention measures determine the future of any organisation. Compliance and Risk Officers are now required to do advisory and implementation work, as well as monitor the work (and processes) being carried out by the organisation.It is no longer enough to have a compliance and risk plan and expect the risk owners to implement. Compliance and Risk Officers are now part owners of compliance and risk issues.

This is also partly because policies remain unchanged, and in many instances, they are no longer applicable. Furthermore, it is vital that decision making must be rapid and decisive, if a catastrophe is to be avoided. Malfeasance is generally an opportunity issue. Those entrusted with managing resources often take advantage of situations such as this.

Dedicated risk managers

Heads of organisations are unlikely to cope unless they have a dedicated compliance and risk capability which enters the arena when necessary.

As every decision depends on compliance and risk, decision making must incorporate the advice of Compliance and Risk Officers. The current situation is new to many if not all organisations and may not have precedent. That is however not a defence available to a Compliance and Risk Officer.

Compliance and Risk Officers have always worked outside a defined framework. Whatever the policies, rules and plans, Compliance Officers and Risk Officers rely more on critical analysis skills than defined industry frameworks and practices.In the context of the current situation, it is Compliance and Risk Officers who can advise better how people can relate to each other in the workplace, who must be there and what must be in place

It is the Compliance and Risk Officer who can tell better, who must be allowed to drive the truck or make tea.

Compliance and risk officers

It is the Compliance and Risk Officer who can tell better which door of the building to use and how staff must behave whilst at home.

It is the Compliance and Risk Officer who can tell whether the right quality of sanitizers should be procured. It is these basic things which determine whether an organisation can open its doors and remain operational.

It is the Risk and Compliance Officers who can tell better whether it is worth retaining staff or spending money an organisation does not have.

Therefore, Compliance and Risk Officers should assess whether:

  1. They are in a position to lead the organisation, especially in compliance, business continuity and risk management matters amid Covid–19;
  2.  They are in a position to seamlessly integrate the compliance, business continuity and risk management into organisational processes for effective organisational operations;
  3. They are in a position to influence business in such a way that the organisation is rescued from a catastrophic scenario, and
  4. They are also ready to hold difficult conversations with stakeholders.

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