HR Standards open the door for HR Managers to become Commissioners of Oaths

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HR Standards open the door for HR Managers to become Commissioners of Oaths 
by Xolani Mawande

In pursuit of the strategy of the SA Board for People Practices (SABPP) in providing a voice for the human resource (HR) profession, we are proud to announce that after months of work with the Department of Justice, the Minister of Justice and Correctional Services has gazetted a designation of SABPP registered professionals as ex-officio Commissioners of Oaths.  The term “ex-officio” means “by virtue of your designation.” In essence, this means that members registered with SABPP with the designations of Master HR Professional, Chartered HR Professional, HR Professional and HR Associate may now administer oaths or affirmations; take solemn or attested declarations; and certify documents to be a true copy of the original in accordance with the Justices of Peace and Commissioners of Oaths Act (no 63 of 1963).

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Building on recent successes with the launch of the National HR Standards and the new South African HR Competency Model, the national recognition of HR professionals as Commissioners of Oaths has taken the HR profession to a new level of significance, professional status and meaning. The Commissioner of Oaths status further highlights the important role of HR professionals in meeting the HR competency requirement in HR Governance, Risk and Compliance and striving towards achieving the national standard in HR Risk Management.

We believe that designating SABPP HR professionals to become Commissioners of Oath will yield benefits for the country, inter alia the following:

• The workload of current Commissioners of Oath such as police officers and accountants will be reduced.
• HR professionals will be in a position to support the government and law enforcement agencies to combat fraud and corruption in areas where HR can add value, such as identity fraud and forged qualifications certificates.
• HR professionals will be empowered to visibly apply their Code of Conduct.
• HR professionals will play a meaningful role in preventing fronting and other unethical practices pertaining to tenders, Black Economic Empowerment and other HR and supply chain practices.
• HR professionals will be positioned as key change agents and champions for ethics, professionalism and nation building as envisaged by the National Development Plan (NDP).
• The role of Commissioner of Oaths also embodies a clear commitment to the Constitution of South Africa and the practice of justice, human rights and sound governance at all spheres of government.
• Moreover, HR professionals are custodians of a multitude of labour and other laws, and therefore, like accountants, function as compliance officers in the workplace.

In addition to the benefits for the country as a whole as outlined above, now that HR Managers are Commissioners of Oaths, it will make their task so much easier to get documents such as copies of qualifications or ID documents certified. Says Andre Oldknow, HR Director at JIC Mining Services: “This is fantastic news. I am not sure if you can begin to appreciate what a tremendous lifting of an administrative burden this brings about.” Dr Michael Glensor, Group HR Executive of the construction company Liviero Group adds: “This is exceptional news I am so pleased this will most certainly grant great recognition to our profession as a whole.” Likewise, Elizabeth Maepa, ex-HR Director at First Rand Group calls this achievement “a step in the right direction.”

This ex-officio status only applies to registered SABPP professionals in good standing, that is, paid up with their membership and with no ethical complaints outstanding against them. This underlines the importance of members ensuring that they are currently paid up.

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A Guide on powers and duties of a Commissioner of Oaths has been developed to orientate HR Managers about this new role and responsibility. The first action step to implement this new status is for a member to purchase or have made a Commissioner of Oaths stamp. Any member who is not in good standing and who purports to act in this ex-officio capacity as a Commissioner of Oaths will be committing a breach of the SABPP’s Code of Conduct and contravening the Justices of Peace and Commissioners of Oaths Act.

This designation underlines the important role that HR professionals play in ensuring that administrative processes are managed ethically and scrupulously. Recent very public scandals around misrepresentation of qualifications emphasise the importance of checking that documents produced as originals are genuine and original. The need to ensure fairness and consistency in disciplinary processes, highlighted in her address to the SABPP Ethics breakfast by the Public Protector, Advocate Thuli Madonsela emphasises the solemn nature of the Commissioner of Oaths’ role in attesting to affidavits and declarations.

Thus, an HR professional in his or her role as a Commissioner of Oaths, carries the reputation of our profession and we need to recognise this responsibility and live up to our Code of Conduct. The SABPP Code of Conduct highlights the four HR professional values of responsibility, respect, integrity and competence.

To celebrate this historic achievement and to orientate HR professionals on their duties and responsibilities as Commissions of Oaths, SABPP will distribute a guide for all HR Managers attending the 4th Annual National HR Standards Summit on 27-28 July in Midrand. The purpose of the guide is to bring HR professionals up to speed with the requirements of the Act and to share the practical implications with them.

However, we need to ensure that we conduct ourselves as professionals when fulfilling our duties as Commissioners of Oaths. The following guidelines constitute the first steps in adapting to the new role of HR professionals as Commissioners of Oaths:

• Read and study the Justices of Peace and Commissioners of Oaths Act.
• Follow the guidelines provided in the SABPP Guide for Commissioners of Oaths.
• Participate in the SABPP linked-in discussion group dealing with Commissioners of Oaths.
• Orientate your HR team members of their new role.
• Inform key line managers in your organisation, e.g. Heads of Legal, Compliance, Governance, Company Secretary and Financial Manager.
• Order a set of rubber stamps for your office.
• Spread the workload between five or more HR professionals so that all Commissioners of Oaths duties do not end up with the same individual.
• Ensure that you only certify documents if you have seen the original.
• Follow all guidelines pertaining to administering Oaths according to the Act.

We would like to thank the Minister of Justice, Advocate Masutha, for approving SABPP professionals as ex-officio Commissioners of Oaths. We trust that HR professionals will make use of this exciting opportunity to be empowered as Commissioners of Oaths in exercising our role as governance, risk and compliance officers pertaining to the certification of documents and affidavits. While the new role of Commissioners of Oaths is indeed an achievement, it also requires that HR professionals take full responsibility for meeting the requirements of the Act. Essentially, it requires us to be professionals and to apply our minds and judgment in an effective and professional way before certifying documents or administering oaths.

For more information about the new role of HR professionals as Commissioners of Oaths, visit the SABPP website on http://www.sabpp.co.za or follow them on twitter @SABPP1 or attend the 4th Annual National HR Standards Conference on 27 July in Midrand.

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Xolani Mawande is the COO of SABPP.  You  can contact him on xolani@sabpp.co.za

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