HARARE – The concept of corporate governance has not received a lot of attention in the arts and culture sector despite being such an important issue in commerce and industry.
While in the wider society including schools and cooperatives, the presentation or publication of audited financial accounts is an important event; this has not been so in the arts.
I think the issue of corporate governance is universal and the arts and culture industry has to adopt these best practices if it is to develop and get the much-needed support.
According to Lisa Mary Thomson corporate governance refers to “…the set of systems, principles and processes by which a company is governed.
“They provide the guidelines as to how the company can be directed or controlled such that it can fulfill its goals and objectives in a manner that adds to the value of the company and is also beneficial for all stakeholders in the long term.
“Stakeholders in this case would include everyone ranging from the board of directors, management, shareholders to customers, employees and society.
“The management of the company hence assumes the role of a trustee for all the others.”
While most arts organisations may not be companies, the underlying principles remain the same.
There is need for accountability and transparency. It is sad that in the early 80s there were such powerful arts organisations such as National Theatre Organisations (NTO), Zimbabwe Association of Community Theatre (Zact), Zimbabwe Writer’s Union (Ziwu), Zimbabwe Union of Musicians (Zum), Zimbabwe Film and Television Actors’ Union (Ziftau), Zimbabwe Dancers Council (ZDC), Budding Writers Association of Zimbabwe (BWAZ), National Training and Conference of the Arts in Zimbabwe (Natcaz) to mention but a few.
All these organisations and many more are no more.
While we are all agreed that these organisations were affected by funding challenges, what is also true is that their greatest enemy was poor corporate governance.
A look at similar organisations like Zimbabwe Women Writers (ZWW), Visual Arts Association of Bulawayo (Vaab), Zimbabwe Academic and Non-Fiction Authors (Zana) and Zimbabwe National Traditional Dance Association (ZNTDA) would demonstrate the power of good corporate governance in the survival of arts organisations in Zimbabwe.
I have observed that having good corporate governance within an arts organisation is the single most critical element that ensures an organisation survives organisational challenges.
What has tended to worsen the demise of many arts associations and organisations in Zimbabwe is that most donors and funding organisations especially foreign ones have not insisted on good corporate governance as a condition for funding. In the majority of cases, foreign organisations have secretly funded their chosen Zimbabwean arts organisation.
The interesting thing is that whenever problems develop, the foreign organisations would then approach National Arts Council of Zimbabwe (NACZ) for recourse.
It is not a condition for funding that NACZ should be informed, but it is also good corporate practice for funding organisations to be transparent when funding the arts to inform NACZ.
It would also not be fair to blame NACZ when the funded organisation fails to account for the resources given when the deal was done without the knowledge of the NACZ.
This also applies to many corporates who have been short-changed by some artists or arts organisations.
These corporates never bother to consult the NACZ on how to get the best value for money before funding an arts entity.
It is a fact that a lot of money is poured into the arts and culture sector by multilateral and bilateral partners for the development and promotion of the arts and culture in Zimbabwe.
For this, the Zimbabwean arts and culture sector is very grateful.
However, it is my humble view that if all these funding partners would, among other many conditions ensure the organisations they are funding have audited financial accounts, and if unaudited, obtain an opinion from NACZ on the operation of the organisation, it will go a long way in getting value for their investment.
The current scenario where it appears funders seem to only consider talent at the expense of accountability and transparency, has led the arts and culture sector to remain a charity case.
While the arts and culture sector needs technical and financial support from local and international community, the support should develop the sector and not keep it in perpetual begging mode.
The arts and culture sector needs to account for all the money and funds availed to it and those who fund the arts must do it transparently to foster accountability.
The Culture Fund of Zimbabwe Trust Model of announcing recipients of their grants publicly as well is in the national papers is one such approach that could help in making them accountable to the communities they are given money to help. In addition, NACZ could also help in making the recipients accountable as well.
NACZ has committed itself to working with the arts and culture sector so that it can be professional and contribute to the socio-economic development of Zimbabwe as well as empowering all the Zimbabwean communities.
The sector must work with the new Ministry of Sport, Arts and Culture to ensure the sector is transformed into a viable industry that benefits all Zimbabweans.
*Mari is the Director of National Arts Council of Zimbabwe and feedback and comments can be send to firstname.lastname@example.org