Cricket SA needs an ethical make-over

Cricket as the supposed “game of gentlemen” has revealed anything but gentlemanly behaviour. The incidences of unethical behaviour stretch from Hansie Cronje, to jailed Pakistani cricketers, to the current Cricket South African(CSA) bonus scandal.

Added to the scandal is the behaviour of South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC). President of CSA, Mtutuzeli Nyoka, was removed from office at a special general meeting of the CSA members' forum on October 15, accused of bringing the organisation into disrepute - instead of being recognised for telling the truth.

The appointment of Judge Chris Nicholson to chair a commission of inquiry into CSA’s finances and bonus scandal by Sports Minister, Fikile Mbalula, was a positive initial step towards resolving the matter.

SA Cricketers' Association CEO Tony Irish’s recognition that “cricket sorely needs a restoration of stakeholder confidence and public confidence," is stating the obvious. However, what is not obvious is how this can be achieved.

Both Irishand Ajay Sooklal, CSA legal and governance committee head, have made recommendations to the inquiry as to what should be done.

Irish recommended “having a proper independent expert review of the corporate governance structure with particular focus on the board of directors", in line with the International Cricket Council’s resolve to review its governance structure. Sooklal called for a forensic audit in respect of the entire administration of CSA and recommended drafting a new constitution.

Both recommendations are sound, but do not go nearly far enough to fully resolving the situation – not if the goal is rebuilding trust and confidence among the many stakeholders: players, sponsors and the public.

At a simple level what this requires is a change of behaviour to that which is ethical and transparent. However, building confidence that stated intentions and changes are real and sustainable is the hard part.

A practical step towards realising this is to follow the recommendations of the King III Report on Corporate Governance which entails the assessment, monitoring, reporting and disclosure of an organisation’s ethical performance.

Conducting an independent ethics survey has the added benefit of giving stakeholders the opportunity to share their perceptions and insights into the CSA’s ethical status. This can identify and prioritise what actions the CSA should take to improve their ethical status. On-going monitoring via an annual ethics survey will reflect improvements over time, which further supports increased trust and confidence

When all the facts have surfaced and the findings published, the crucial question will be whether the CSA board will take sufficient action to meet King III’s recommendation that they “ensure that the company’s ethics are managed effectively”.

Cynthia Schoeman