From Integrated Annual Report for the year ended 31 December 2023

The Bell Equipment board, through effective leadership, applies good corporate governance to ensure sustainable growth, embeds an ethical culture in the group and enhances long term equity performance.

Principles guiding our governance

Bell Equipment’s board is the focal point and custodian of good corporate governance for the group.

The group’s governance and compliance framework is founded on the principles of accountability, transparency, ethical management and fairness. Governance processes and group policies are regularly reviewed to ensure alignment with regulatory changes, reflect best practice, seek out opportunities to incrementally improve the group’s governance and ascertain whether the policies and processes are still fit for purpose as the group’s businesses change over time.

As a global company, Bell Equipment needs to adhere to a wide range of legislative requirements. Regulatory compliance is prioritised across the group and the embedding of board approved policies is monitored. Members of senior management are regularly informed of all relevant new legislation and amendments.

The board confirms that the group complied with the JSE Listings Requirements, the provisions of the Companies Act, the company’s MOI and King IV during the year under review, and in all material respects, complied with the laws of the countries in which Bell does business, including the laws of South Africa, where the company is incorporated.

In the past year, notable governance matters in the group included the following:

a structured and formalised annual evaluation of the independence of the non executive directors was undertaken, and six non executive directors were considered independent as defined by King IV and the JSE Listings Requirements, namely Hennie van der Merwe, Derek Lawrance, Mamokete Ramathe, Rajendran Naidu, Ushadevi Maharaj and Markus Geyer;

a dedicated strategy session was held at the Bell Germany operation during June 2023 where the board and the GEC members attended to consider and approve the group strategy;

on 10 July 2023, Leon Goosen tendered his resignation as chief executive and stepped down as a director with effect from 31 December 2023. On 30 November 2023, Ashley Bell, a current non executive director of the company, was appointed as chief executive of the company with effect from 1 January 2024;

following the amendment to the Financial Intelligence Centre Act, two of Bell’s subsidiaries (BECSA and BESSA) were considered accountable institutions. In line with such Act, the required registration was completed and ongoing compliance with obligations is being undertaken by such entities;

the bi annual formal board, committee, external and internal auditor, company secretary and chairman self evaluations were undertaken towards the end of 2023 and the outcome thereof will be considered by the nominations committee during the first quarter of 2024, with appropriate action items reported to the board; and

the ongoing monitoring of compliance with King IV and other material legislation affecting the group.

Governance focus areas in 2024:

in an environment of heightened global awareness of data protection and privacy issues, and the related risks that are amplified in the current digital age, the group will continue to position itself to take advantage of its investment in technology to protect its digital information and continue to ensure that effective governance policies and processes are in place to address these issues;

the company’s ESG journey is continuing with the appointment of an external service provider to assist the company to develop and refine its ESG framework, thereby enhancing and coordinating its approach to ESG, especially in respect of how it reports its performance externally, utilising best practice guidance and frameworks that are appropriate for its business;

close monitoring of economic conditions continue to take place given the macroeconomic uncertainty associated with continued port delays, supply chain concerns, rising interest rates, high inflation, and the ongoing strain on talent. Pursuing long term sustainability of the business will remain a focus area of the board.

The group has an established and comprehensive group approvals framework aimed at clarifying the various limits of authority in place within the group. This framework is reviewed by the board annually.

The board recognises that delegating authority does not reduce the responsibility of directors to discharge their statutory and common law fiduciary duties. As a parent company, Bell Equipment Limited strives to exercise appropriate governance oversight over its subsidiaries while acknowledging their independence and the legal and governance responsibilities that apply to each subsidiary. The subsidiary directors are bound to adhere to the group approvals framework and group policies although this does not absolve the directors of subsidiary boards from exercising their fiduciary duties.

A key responsibility of the board is to set and steer the strategic direction of the group with the aim of supporting the achievement of good performance against its strategic objectives while taking into account the interconnectedness of its core purpose, risks and opportunities, business model, performance and sustainable development.

On an annual basis the GEC formally presents the short, medium and long term strategy to the board which challenges it constructively in respect of its assumptions, time frames and objectives and, if satisfied, formally approves the strategy, budget and targets for the ensuing year. The board and the GEC work closely in determining the strategic direction and objectives of the group.

King IV principles

King IV promotes good governance, transparency in leadership and decision making, and focuses on sustainability. In line with King IV’s recommendation to apply and explain how Bell Equipment practices good governance, we have prepared our detailed King IV application register on the investor website, confirming the group has applied the King lV report throughout the 2023 financial year and the directors confirm that the group has in all material respects voluntarily applied the principles of the code. The group views developments and governance trends as opportunities to continuously improve and entrench its own standards.

Ethical culture

Good corporate governance is essentially about effective, ethical leadership. While leadership starts with each individual director, it finds its expression through the board as a collective, setting the appropriate example and tone, which is referred to as ethical governance. Bell Equipment is committed to conducting healthy business practices with honesty and integrity.

The Bell group has a developed code of business conduct, a code of ethics and a prevention of fraud and commercial crime policy and is continuously involved in group wide efforts to re emphasise the ethical values in dealing with its stakeholders that underpin these codes and policies and to provide regular ethics training to its employees.

Management is driving this leadership culture of ethical conduct by establishing the correct tone at the top in respect of the group’s corporate culture by ensuring it is based on the 1-BELL philosophy and aligning it to evolving best practice.

The group will not engage in, condone or tolerate any corrupt practices and rejects all forms of dishonesty, fraud, corruption and unethical behaviour. Corruption is a risk that is managed on an ongoing basis, particularly in the diverse areas in which the group operates. Ongoing awareness training is provided on the prevention of fraud and commercial crimes. The entrenchment of applicable policies sets stringent standards relating to the prevention of fraud and the prosecution of offenders, the acceptance of gifts from third parties and the declarations of potential conflicts of interest.

A group fraud risk assessment model was developed and is frequently reviewed. Mitigating action plans and controls are in place and are updated as and when required.

The annual submission by employees of their electronic employee governance declarations confirming their compliance to the group codes and policies, their declaration of any potential conflicts of interest as set out in the conflicts of interest policy as well as their disclosure of any approved outside activities, continues to be undertaken. Any non compliance with policies or perceived material conflicts of interest is reviewed and addressed by the GEC.

During the reporting period, an external service provider conducted a focused approach of the outside activity declaration and policy. Appropriate enhancements to the outside activity policy were made in order to improve the overall governance. Adequate training will be rolled out to the employees and a review undertaken against the updated policy and improved processes during 2024.

To view the full report click here