Company Secretaries should be Qualified says CSA

Appropriate minimum qualifications for company secretaries would ensure greater protection for stakeholders, improve compliance and reduce law enforcement costs, the peak body for compliance has claimed in a submission to the Companies & Securities Advisory Committee (CASAC).

Nor has it restricted mandatory qualifications to public companies. In its' submission, Chartered Secretaries Australia (CSA) urges that in addition to public companies, company secretaries of large proprietary companies and companies controlled by a foreign corporation should have appropriate minimum qualifications and expertise.

"Good corporate governance practices are in everyone's best interest, and setting minimum qualification levels is the best way to ensure good corporate governance," CSA Chief Executive, Mr Tim Sheehy said.

"We believe that to be properly qualified, a company secretary should have at least five years commercial experience, relevant post graduate qualifications and be a member of a professional body.

"Most importantly, qualifications should be driven by industry, particularly professional bodies, to ensure that qualified company secretaries are bound by the ethical standards and self regulatory processes set by those professional bodies.

"Requirements also need to be easily accessible, cost effective for individuals, cost neutral for organisations, include a range of options and grandfathering provisions," Mr Sheehy said.

Senior management also supports the CSA call for appropriate qualifications for company secretaries.

According to the Managing Director of CSR, Mr Peter Kirby it is essential that directors are confident that the governance function is properly carried out in a rapidly changing, increasingly complex regulatory environment. Directors must also be kept up to date on new developments as they occur.

"Governance best practice is all about having a good grip on and some solid
experience in the detail of what needs to be done.

"Increasingly, directors are seeking guidance from the company secretary as to their
governance duties and responsibilities.
"At the end of the day you need to have an experienced person in the role who is
right up to speed on the issues," he said.

Commenting on CSA's proposal for appropriate minimum qualifications for company secretaries, the Shadow Minister for Financial Services Senator Conroy said that he welcomed CASAC's decision to properly explore any requirement for minimum qualification for company secretaries.

Senator Conroy felt that minimum qualifications, if established, would contribute to greater investor confidence in the markets, as there would be assurance that the senior executive responsible for corporate governance would be properly qualified.

"This would add substantially to the very high standards of corporate governance all stakeholders now seek," Senator Conroy said.

For further information contact Tim Sheehy on (02) 9223 5744; or Bruce Glen or Vivienne Hardy on (02) 9247 3782

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