Like other jurisdictions South African company law has created the office of the company secretary. Although, the Companies Act 71 of 2008 does not dictate in which companies a company secretary should be appointed, it is commonly viewed as only being relevant or required in large organisations. This is not true.
Thus, in order to demystify this common misconception it is important to investigate the role of the company secretary in terms of South African company law
A company secretary is the chief administrative officer of the company, responsible along with the directors for certain tasks under the Companies Act 71 of 2008 (the ‘Act’). From this it is clear that size of the company is not the most accurate consideration in determining whether or not a company requires the services of a company secretary, but instead, the risk faced by the company if they are unaware of all the compliance issues they may be facing and/or the time the board will rather spend on researching and ensuring compliance themselves as opposed to strategically guiding the organisation.
According to the Institute of Directors: “The company secretary has a key role to play in ensuring that board procedures are both followed and regularly reviewed. The chairman and the board will look to the company secretary for guidance on what their responsibilities are under the rules and regulations to which they are subject and on how these responsibilities should be discharged. All directors should have access to the advice and services of the company secretary and should recognise that the chairman is entitled to strong support from the company secretary in ensuring the effective functioning of the board”
Although in larger companies the company secretary does advise the CEO, he/ she may also advise the board regardless of its size as outlined in South African company law.
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