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Tunisia: The ITA is open to listed and unlisted companies

Supporting administrators in performing their good governance mission is the main task of the Tunisian Administrators Institute (l’Institut Tunisien des Administrateurs (ITA) whose President and also Director General of Biat, Slaheddine Ladjimi highlights in an exclusive interview granted to Africanmanager, the purpose of the ITA, what is expected of the independent administrator and the way the ITA carries out its mission. Interview:

In your capacity as president of the Tunisian Administrators Institute, do you think that the fabric of our economy including mainly SMEs and family businesses can be an obstacle to your mission?

Undoubtly, the Tunisian economic fabric consists primarily of family SMEs rarely listed. That  makes the task of the institute a little harder, because these companies do not usually communicate and their managers, who are often founders  and govern alone, have not , strictly speaking,  Board of directors , independent administrators,  and the rules of good governance are rarely observed.

But you need a start somewhere and we will begin our work within the Institute, with major companies listed that are  already acquainted with  financial communication, transparency, good governance for launching, thereafter, a broader movement that will  gradually involve  all companies, listed or not. As you know, appetite comes with eating and I think that sooner or later, our managers will feel the need to evolve and think about issues of governance.

That is the role of the Institute which will disseminate among the Tunisian economic fabric, the rules of good governance, universal rules that will necessarily apply in Tunisia. Our companies will face one day or another, at one time or another  issues of size, debt, business transfer, opening of capital and will have to raise the real questions of financing, raising funds in financial markets, communication, transparency, governance, in short all issues related to good governance.

What is the contribution of the independent administrator?

The independent administrator is a person that companies include within Board of Directors in view of his skills, expertise, experience, experiences, without being a significant shareholder.
He provides an informed opinion on strategy, running the business, independently, and I think that experience deserves to be encouraged in Tunisia.

What role public authorities may play as far as your mission is concerned?

Public authorities have set the scene through the promulgation of legislation promoting good governance. The implementation of this law is carried out gradually and we are already seeing a progress including better communication, more transparency. These are achievements that need to be strengthened and generalized. It’s just the role of both the state and our association which are required to disseminate these best practices.

Does the theme of the ITA inaugural conference is a topical one? Are we really beyond the crisis?

Are we beyond the crisis? Certainly not. A crisis of this magnitude and so deep that affects the whole world, at varying degrees, cannot disappear in one or two years.
But our inaugural seminar focuses on one actor among others, corporate administrators, who have a role to play so that crises like the one we just experienced, do not recur.
Did the administrators fail in their role? Definitely yes, for some who have misunderstood some risks. But they are not the only culprits. Other stakeholders, regulators, supervisors, rating agencies etc… have also failed in their missions.

I take this opportunity to ask you to give us some indicators on BIAT in 2009 and its prospects for 2010?

The 2009 results are good, consistent with our strategic plan for the period 2008-2012. Our indicators, released January 20, confirmed that.
Visibility for 2010 is still uncertain, but I remain optimistic and I am confident that the bank, based on excellent management, will also achieve in 2010 excellent results, consistent with our strategic plan.
The bank is restructuring and we started, since 2008, reaping the first benefits of our actions, while continuing our support to the economy as a whole and especially to exporting companies, as recommended by the Central Bank of Tunisia.

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