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Monday, November 8, 2010

Statement by the National Executive Committee of DCASA

DCASA and some DC's country wide recently received an undated letter written by Beatrice de Beer acting on behalf of unnamed concerned DCASA members and unnamed non members during October 2010.

The NEC of DCASA wish to comment as follows:

DCASA has, since inception, adopted and implemented a Corporate Governance Policy
and all NEC members have disclosed their interests and we remain a transparent

The aim of DCASA is to be the body of choice for debt counsellors is South Africa. DCASA is a voluntary association and in terms of its Constitution all registered Debt Counsellors can apply for membership and are eligible for election on any of the DCASA structures or committees. Currently DCASA has over 230 active members. DCASA has over the last 3 years put in a huge effort to improve the profession and to increase its membership. DCASA has and will continue to engage will all role players to improve the profession. This is an ongoing process that the NEC and ranch Committees have been involved in but despite this some Debt Counsellors have elected to stay on the sideline. This has not deterred DCASA to involve members and not members in its negotiations and discussions to date. DCASA has set up monthly meetings where members and non members are welcome.

This year the 2nd DCASA conference will take place and is again open for members and non members. This year, as in 2009, all available seats at the conference have been booked.

In pursuance of this goal DCASA has been involved in a number of activities since 2007.

This included the Work Stream agreements of 2007/2008, The Declarator, DC Fee structure, proposed amendments to the ACT and Regulations, Changes to the MCA and
Rules, The improvement of the NCR Debt Help system, Bank accounts for Debt review clients, Credit Provider interactions, monthly DCASA feedback meetings, the NDMA(work groups and board representation), University of Pretoria Report, Numerous
submissions to DTI and NCR regarding the fee structure review, Annual conferences, NCR Task Team, PDA’s, engagement with other organisations and many other initiatives. The most recent is to support an appeal of a DCASA member’s client on the stance most bank’s have taken with regard to section 86(10) and the publishing of a Reckless Credit Guideline for Debt Counsellors. The NEC of DCASA acts on behalf of its members and its aim has always been to improve the Debt Counselling industry and to grow its membership base.

DCASA has also actively participated and is represented on the NCR Task Team. Many, many hours were devoted by DCASA, NEC members and ordinary members in attending meetings, negotiations with stake holders, setting up the DC System Forum, writing ofdocuments, and proposals and system specs over a 10 month period which culminated in the acceptance of the NCR Task Team proposals in September 2010. During the ten months period regular feedback was provided by DCASA in a transparent, open and responsible manner to both members and non members. The approval of the Task Team report will play an important role in improving the Debt Counselling process and to structure acceptable proposals which are all aimed to improve the profession.

The abovementioned agreement will fundamentally change and improve the debt
counselling industry by introducing standards, processes, forms and restructure rules. To implement this requires a Code of Conduct and a Complaints Resolution and Mediation process. DCASA has invested hundreds of hours in this project and whilst some criticism can expected in a process that required compromise agreements to move the process forward, DCASA was overwhelmed by the positive feedback received from members and non members. This was further endorsed during the recent NCR Task Team road show (600 to 700 Debt Counsellors) and the NCR Debt Counselling Conference (500 Debt Counsellors). Most of the criticism received was from Debt Counsellors who were not members of DCASA and who during this process elected to stay uninvolved.

In tandem with this initiative DCASA engaged with DTI and the NCR regarding the Debt Counsellors fee structure.

Since 2008 seven proposals and numerous presentations were submitted and made to the NCR and DTI and this culminated in an independent investigation commissioned by the NCR. The findings were presented to a number of Debt Counsellors on the 3rd November 2010 will also be presented at the DCASA conference by the NCR Consultant in order to inform more Debt Counsellors and to solicit feedback. One of the main reasons that some Debt Counsellors selected not to join DCASA is the fee structure.

DCASA is an independent organisation and proudly sponsored by its members. It was always envisaged that the fees will be reduced over time and this has indeed happened. In addition the NEC launched a project in October 2010 to investigate the possibility of introducing an Associated Member and Affiliated Member fee Structure to accommodate Debt Counsellors who cannot afford the current membership fee. Our
thanks go out to all our members who have contributed to getting the Association off the ground and who have paid the membership fees. A new fee structure has been approved will be distributed to all Debt Counsellors.
The issue of obtaining additional funding was discussed at the NEC in March 2010 and Mrs. De Beer was mandated to engage with organisations on this matter and if successful to present terms and conditions to the NEC. It is envisaged that the funds would be utilised to appoint a CEO and related staff who would then relieve the NEC appointed members and ordinary members of many of the tasks they are currently performing at no cost to the Association. As stated above any registered Debt Counsellor is eligible to become a DCASA member.

In terms of DCASA’s Constitution members can be elected to the NEC directly or through a DCASA Branch Committee. This practice was followed to date and at the DCASA AGM of 2009 the current NEC members were elected. This process will be repeated at the DCASA AGM of 2010. All NEC members are required to sign a declaration of interest and in terms of standard practice cannot be involved in any decision where a potential conflict of interest is present. To date the NEC of DCASA is not aware of any transgression of this policy.

At the NEC meeting it was further agreed that to encourage and to provide every Debt Counsellor with an opportunity to be actively involved in shaping and protecting the Debt Counselling profession the following process would be introduced:

1. The appointment of members to the NEC would, as scheduled, take place at the AGM on Tuesday, 9th November 2010 in line with DCASA’s Constitution.

2. We will give every registered debt counsellor the opportunity once again to join DCASA and to become a member in good standing during the months of November, December and January.

3. In February 2011 we will hold a meeting in each of the Provinces and members can then be elected to the respective Branch Committees.

4. In March 2011 we will call a Special General Meeting and we will then appoint members to the NEC utilising the same nomination and voting procedure used at the AGM in 2010. In addition to this we will agree and ratify on any of the changes required to the Constitution which will include the Code of Conduct and the Complaints Resolution and Mediation process.

One of the requirements of the NCR Task Team is a setting up of a Code of Conduct for all the role players. This Code of Conduct requires NCR approval. The existing Code of Conduct was already under review and B de Beer and L Hurst jointly submitted proposals in this regard. This was then developed further to be in line with the NCR Task Teams requirements and was then submitted to NEC Members for comment. The comments received were then taken into account and a draft Code of Conduct was then submitted to the NCR Task Team for consideration. The Task Team’s changes to the Code of Conduct was received on the morning of the NEC meeting (12th October 2010) and for this reason three hours were devoted to study and comment on the proposed Code of Conduct. The draft Code of Conduct was updated to include the NEC comments and recommendations and returned to the NCR and Task Team Chairman. We are expecting to receive the draft Code of Conduct back from the NEC within the next few days. Once we are in receipt of the draft we will be in a position to obtain approval in line with DCASA’s Constitution which requires that this be brought to the AGM or a Special General Meeting with 24 days prior notice. This will also entail submitting the draft Code of Conduct to all members for comment. It is clear that no decisions can be taken at the AGM this year as we do not have the final comments of the NCR Task Team. Any interaction prior to receipt of the proposed Code of Conduct is therefore premature and of little value. The final code of conduct will also require NCR approval.

Our membership continues to grow and we have over 230 members who participate in
the activities in our Industry. We encourage all Debt Counsellors to join DCASA in order to build on the sound foundations laid by DCASA over the last three and a half years. It is crucial that members participate actively at Provincial Branch Committee level and we once again encourage all members to become active participants on the Provincial Branch Committees.

Debt Counselling is a still a relatively new profession and DCASA is proud in the part that it has played to date to improve and protect our profession. Much still needs to be done but DCASA is encouraged by the progress made to date and believes that the implementation of Task Team Agreements will play a huge role to lift the profession to the next level which will require professionalism, transparency, dedication and trust by all Debt Counsellors.

These comments submitted by:AJ RICHARDS
President of DCASA

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