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The Institute of Certified Secretaries of Kenya published nine governance standards promoting the best corporate practices. General meetings are a pivotal aspect of stakeholder engagement and decision-making. General meetings is the first Corporate Governance Standard aimed at elevating meetings to a higher level of transparency, inclusivity and effectiveness.
a) Annual General Meetings;this is a general meeting held by the members of an organization each year, as required by the Companies Act No. 17 of 2015, Section 275A. The objective of the meeting is to discuss the past, present, and future activities of the organization.
b) Extraordinary General Meetings; a general meeting held by the members when convened to discuss matters that require the input of the entire membership and that are too important and urgent to wait until the next annual general meeting.
The factors below promote good corporate practice in organizing successful general meetings:
1. Clear Communication and Timely Notice
One of the fundamental pillars of effective general meetings is clear communication. Corporations should ensure that all stakeholders, including shareholders, directors, and relevant authorities, receive timely and comprehensive notices about the meeting’s agenda, venue, date, and time. Transparent communication fosters trust and gives participants ample time to prepare hence promoting meaningful participation.
2. Agenda Setting and Disclosure
The Institute of Certified Secretaries’ standards emphasize the importance of setting a well-defined agenda for general meetings. Clearly articulated agendas give attendees insight into the topics of discussion, helping them formulate informed opinions and contribute meaningfully. Moreover, the disclosure of the agenda enables stakeholders to assess whether the meeting covers relevant and crucial matters.
3) Information Access
In the pursuit of transparency, it is essential to provide stakeholders with equal access to information. Corporations must ensure that all relevant documents, reports, and resolutions are made available to participants well in advance. This enables attendees to review materials thoroughly and engage in discussions with a deep understanding of the matters at hand.
4) Inclusive Participation
The Institute of Certified Secretaries governance standards highlight the importance of inclusivity in general meetings. Encouraging diverse participation from shareholders and other stakeholders fosters a well-rounded dialogue that reflects different perspectives and insights. Implementing technology solutions, such as virtual meeting platforms, can further widen access and enable wider participation, particularly for geographically dispersed shareholders.
5) Expert Moderation and Facilitation
The role of a skilled moderator or facilitator cannot be understated in general meetings. A well-prepared and knowledgeable moderator can steer discussions effectively, ensure that all relevant agenda items are covered, and manage time efficiently. This facilitates a structured discourse, prevents digression, and maximizes the use of meeting time.
6) Active Engagement Sessions
Engaging stakeholders actively during general meetings can be a powerful tool for enhancing corporate governance. Corporations should create a conducive environment for open dialogue, enabling a healthy exchange of ideas and perspectives.
7) Record-Keeping and Minutes
Accurate record-keeping is essential for accountability and compliance. Meeting minutes should capture key discussions, decisions, and action items in a clear and concise manner. These minutes serve as a reference point for future decision-making and can also be shared with stakeholders who couldn’t attend the meeting.
8) Post-Meeting Follow-Up
The governance standards underscore the significance of post-meeting activities. Corporations should promptly communicate decisions, actions, and resolutions that arise from the meeting. This ensures that participants are informed of outcomes and provides clarity on the direction the organization is taking.
A general meeting may be adjourned where legal and governance requirements fall short. The following challenges can lead to adjournment:
a) Incomplete business due to inadequate time
b) An improperly convened meeting
c) Improperly issued notices
d) Lack of quorum
e) Chaos in the meeting
Adhering to the Institute of Certified Secretaries’ published governance standards for general meetings can significantly elevate corporate governance practices. By focusing on transparency, inclusivity, effective communication, and active engagement, organizations can foster an environment of trust and accountability. In doing so, they not only uphold their responsibilities to shareholders and stakeholders but also set the stage for sustainable growth and success.