Updated Singapore Code of Corporate Governance (Part 2)

Norman Marks, CRMA, CPA, is a vice president for SAP and has been a chief audit executive and chief risk officer at major global corporations for more than 20 years.

 

This is a continuation of the post on the updated Singapore Code of Corporate Governance issued in May by The Monetary Authority of Singapore.

Principle 6: In order to fulfil their responsibilities, directors should be provided with complete, adequate and timely information prior to board meetings and on an on-going basis so as to enable them to make informed decisions to discharge their duties and responsibilities.

Guidelines:

1. Management has an obligation to supply the Board with complete, adequate information in a timely manner. Relying purely on what is volunteered by Management is unlikely to be enough in all circumstances and further enquiries may be required if the particular director is to fulfil his duties properly. Hence, the Board should have separate and independent access to Management. Directors are entitled to request from Management and should be provided with such additional information as needed to make informed decisions. Management shall provide the same in a timely manner.

Comment: Excellent.

Principle 7: There should be a formal and transparent procedure for developing policy on executive remuneration and for fixing the remuneration packages of individual directors. No director should be involved in deciding his own remuneration.

Guidelines:

3. If necessary, the [remuneration committee] RC should seek expert advice inside and/or outside the company on remuneration of all directors. The RC should ensure that existing relationships, if any, between the company and its appointed remuneration consultants will not affect the independence and objectivity of the remuneration consultants. The company should also disclose the names and firms of the remuneration consultants in the annual remuneration report, and include a statement on whether the remuneration consultants have any such relationships with the company.

Comment: Although the board is not required to assert the independence of the consultant, this requirement is better than the minimalistic approach of the US SEC.

Principle 8: The level and structure of remuneration should be aligned with the long-term interest and risk policies of the company, and should be appropriate to attract, retain and motivate (a) the directors to provide good stewardship of the company, and (b) key management personnel to successfully manage the company. However, companies should avoid paying more than is necessary for this purpose.

Guidelines

1. A significant and appropriate proportion of executive directors’ and key management personnel's remuneration should be structured so as to link rewards to corporate and individual performance. Such performance-related remuneration should be aligned with the interests of shareholders and promote the long-term success of the company. It should take account of the risk policies of the company, be symmetric with risk outcomes and be sensitive to the time horizon of risks. There should be appropriate and meaningful measures for the purpose of assessing executive directors’ and key management personnel's performance.

Comment: Note the reference to alignment with risk outcomes!

4. Companies are encouraged to consider the use of contractual provisions to allow the company to reclaim incentive components of remuneration from executive directors and key management personnel in exceptional circumstances of misstatement of financial results, or of misconduct resulting in financial loss to the company.

Principle 9: Every company should provide clear disclosure of its remuneration policies, level and mix of remuneration, and the procedure for setting remuneration, in the company's Annual Report. It should provide disclosure in relation to its remuneration policies to enable investors to understand the link between remuneration paid to directors and key management personnel, and performance.

Guidelines:

6. For greater transparency, companies should disclose more information on the link between remuneration paid to the executive directors and key management personnel, and performance. The annual remuneration report should set out a description of performance conditions to which entitlement to short-term and long-term incentive schemes are subject, an explanation on why such performance conditions were chosen, and a statement of whether such performance conditions are met.

Comment: I wonder how well this would be received in the US due to concern that the ‘performance conditions’ would involve disclosing sensitive information.

Principle 10: The Board should present a balanced and understandable assessment of the company's performance, position and prospects.

Comment: Great!

Principle 11: The Board is responsible for the governance of risk. The Board should ensure that Management maintains a sound system of risk management and internal controls to safeguard shareholders' interests and the company's assets, and should determine the nature and extent of the significant risks which the Board is willing to take in achieving its strategic objectives.

Guidelines:

1. The Board should determine the company's levels of risk tolerance and risk policies, and oversee Management in the design, implementation and monitoring of the risk management and internal control systems.

2. The Board should, at least annually, review the adequacy and effectiveness of the company's risk management and internal control systems, including financial, operational, compliance and information technology controls. Such review can be carried out internally or with the assistance of any competent third parties.

3. The Board should comment on the adequacy and effectiveness of the internal controls, including financial, operational, compliance and information technology controls, and risk management systems, in the company's Annual Report. The Board's commentary should include information needed by stakeholders to make an informed assessment of the company's internal control and risk management systems.

The Board should also comment in the company's Annual Report on whether it has received assurance from the CEO and the CFO:

(a) that the financial records have been properly maintained and the financial statements give a true and fair view of the company's operations and finances; and

(b) regarding the effectiveness of the company's risk management and internal control systems.

4. The Board may establish a separate board risk committee or otherwise assess appropriate means to assist it in carrying out its responsibility of overseeing the company's risk management framework and policies.

Comment: Please see my separate post on the Singapore guidance on risk oversight.

Principle 12: The Board should establish an Audit Committee ("AC") with written terms of reference which clearly set out its authority and duties.

Guidelines:

1. The AC should comprise at least three directors, the majority of whom including the AC Chairman, should be independent. All of the members of the AC should be non-executive directors. The Board should disclose in the company's Annual Report the names of the members of the AC and the key terms of reference of the AC, explaining its role and the authority delegated to it by the Board.

Comment: They should all be independent!

2. The Board should ensure that the members of the AC are appropriately qualified to discharge their responsibilities. At least two members, including the AC Chairman, should have recent and relevant accounting or related financial management expertise or experience, as the Board interprets such qualification in its business judgement.

Comment: I much prefer the language in the Malaysian code, which references the type of accounting used by the company and the issues that may arise.

4. The duties of the AC should include:

(a) reviewing the significant financial reporting issues and judgements so as to ensure the integrity of the financial statements of the company and any announcements relating to the company's financial performance;

(b) reviewing and reporting to the Board at least annually the adequacy and effectiveness of the company's internal controls, including financial, operational, compliance and information technology controls (such review can be carried out internally or with the assistance of any competent third parties);

(c) reviewing the effectiveness of the company's internal audit function;

(d) reviewing the scope and results of the external audit, and the independence and objectivity of the external auditors; and

(e) making recommendations to the Board on the proposals to the shareholders on the appointment, re-appointment and removal of the external auditors, and approving the remuneration and terms of engagement of the external auditors.

7. The AC should review the policy and arrangements by which staff of the company and any other persons may, in confidence, raise concerns about possible improprieties in matters of financial reporting or other matters. The AC's objective should be to ensure that arrangements are in place for such concerns to be raised and independently investigated, and for appropriate follow-up action to be taken. The existence of a whistle-blowing policy should be disclosed in the company's Annual Report, and procedures for raising such concerns should be publicly disclosed as appropriate.

Comment: Historically, there has been an issue getting Asian organizations to implement whistleblower lines that their employees will use. I hope that issue is historic rather than continuing.

8. The Board should disclose a summary of all the AC's activities in the company's Annual Report. The Board should also disclose in the company's Annual Report measures taken by the AC members to keep abreast of changes to accounting standards and issues which have a direct impact on financial statements.

Comment: The last sentence is intriguing.

9. A former partner or director of the company's existing auditing firm or auditing corporation should not act as a member of the company's AC: (a) within a period of 12 months commencing on the date of his ceasing to be a partner of the auditing firm or director of the auditing corporation; and in any case (b) for as long as he has any financial interest in the auditing firm or auditing corporation.

Comment: 12 months seems too short. The audit partner is not yet of independent mind (from the audit firm).

Principle 13: The company should establish an effective internal audit function that is adequately resourced and independent of the activities it audits.

Guidelines:

1. The Internal Auditor's primary line of reporting should be to the AC Chairman although the Internal Auditor would also report administratively to the CEO. The AC approves the hiring, removal, evaluation and compensation of the head of the internal audit function, or the accounting/auditing firm or corporation to which the internal audit function is outsourced. The Internal Auditor should have unfettered access to all the company's documents, records, properties and personnel, including access to the AC.

Comment: Good stuff.

2. The AC should ensure that the internal audit function is adequately resourced and has appropriate standing within the company. For the avoidance of doubt, the internal audit function can be in-house, outsourced to a reputable accounting/auditing firm or corporation, or performed by a major shareholder, holding company or controlling enterprise with an internal audit staff.

Comment: I am pleased to see that first sentence.

4. The Internal Auditor should carry out its function according to the standards set by nationally or internationally recognised professional bodies including the Standards for the Professional Practice of Internal Auditing set by The Institute of Internal Auditors.

5. The AC should, at least annually, review the adequacy and effectiveness of the internal audit function.

Comment: I like these last two, which will drive the AC to take ownership of the effectiveness of internal audit.

Principle 15: Companies should actively engage their shareholders and put in place an investor relations policy to promote regular, effective and fair communication with shareholders.

4. The Board should state in the company's Annual Report the steps it has taken to solicit and understand the views of the shareholders e.g. through analyst briefings, investor roadshows or Investors' Day briefings.

Comment: I find this interesting. I would like to see US companies that shake off substantial ‘no’ votes on executive compensation address this in their Annual Report.

Principle 16: Companies should encourage greater shareholder participation at general meetings of shareholders, and allow shareholders the opportunity to communicate their views on various matters affecting the company.

I welcome your comments and insights. Is this code as good as the Malaysian code or the South African or Australian codes?

The Singapore Code of Governance and the Risk Governance Guidance for Listed Boards were produced by Singapore's Corporate Governance Council, which advises the Monetary Authority of Singapore on governance matters. Information about the two organizations is available from the corporate governance section of MAS' website 

Posted on Jun 10, 2012 by Norman Marks

Share This Article:    

  1. Thanks for sharing this Mark.  Principle 6 is the key one in my mind.  Directors need to be able to make informed timely decisions so they need access to information that is not controlled by the CEO.  Problem with governance is too often it is the CEO who monitors the board and not the board who monitors the CEO.  The CEO has the information advantage.  The board by the fact they meet infrequently needs to have access to timely information independent of the CEO in order to discharge their duties. 

  1. Deep tkhining - adds a new dimension to it all.

Leave a Reply