From Conformance to Performance

Developing winning, risk-free proposals in South Africa’s changing political and business landscape

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How many of you feel as if you want to run or hide when it comes to governance, risk, related audits, or oversight? I wouldn’t blame you. I have felt that way, too.

In a world that demands better transparency and ethical business behavior, we can no longer afford to think this way. By “we,” I mean them (the governance people) and us. No matter the size of your business or your job role, governance, compliance, and risk management are all part of the package. We are all governance people, and to perform, we must first conform.

Business Under Fire

The economic and political climate in South Africa has endured large-scale bribery, fraud, and corruption scandals over the past two years. With attention on state capture, the business environment we currently operate in is one of increasing scrutiny.

In response, procurement systems are becoming more stringent to adequately cover these risks, reduce costs, meet governance requirements, and enable delivery. Informal procurement processes are starting to fall away with preference given to formal proposal submissions.

Proposals and the governance around the related processes are taking center stage. These proposals drive jobs and the economy and, therefore, play a strategic role. If we fail to comply, then we waste time and money, and worse—we risk jobs and reputations.

No longer can any business afford to look at the proposal or procurement offices as basic administrative centers.

As professionals in this space, we play a critical role in promoting good governance and transparency. The current media and economic climate need more businesses to equip resources with the right information, tools, and professional standards.

How Well Is Your Process Governed?

To ensure good governance in your proposal process, here are some key considerations:

  • Create a documented proposal process aligned with your respective country’s and customers’ legislation.
  • Develop an understanding across both proposal teams and legal teams of the relevant regulations and required ethical conduct.
  • Qualify opportunities to assess the various risks, accountability, and business cases before responding.
  • Track risk and the related mitigations.
  • Quality-check your compliance with requirements and the related signoffs.
  • Enable transparency by documenting, tracking all proposal correspondence where it is secure but accessible.

Lastly, getting external oversight of your governance, risk, and compliance measures is the best way to ensure you are doing the right things.

Change Through Collaboration

The APMP South Africa Chapter has begun various partnerships with procurement leaders within the government and private sectors. The purpose of these collaborations is to create open industry conversations to address current procurement challenges. Providing a platform where procurement and proposal professionals can explore synergies between multiple areas of expertise, these partnerships aim to drive best practices, spearhead good governance, and support the developmental agenda of the country.

As professionals in this space, we play a critical role in promoting good governance and transparency. The current media and economic climate need more businesses to equip resources with the right information, tools, and professional standards.

Ultimately, conformance is about managing business risk, while performance is about driving business growth. Governance is the glue. Want a sustainable business? Governance should become the heart of your organization, with accountability as the heartbeat.


Larissa Cornelius, CP APMP, a director of the APMP South Africa Chapter, is one of APMP’s 2018 40 Under 40 honorees and owns nFold (Pty) Ltd, a South African proposal consultancy. She can be reached at larissa@nfold.com.

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