SAICA Chairman’s Difference Makers Awards
The 2022 Chairman’s Difference Makers Awards, sponsored by SAPRO, recognises SAICA members who are #differencemakers in various areas of business and society – those who have breached the gap between being good and being excellent.
The awards acknowledge members who make decisions that provide sustained prosperity for all and help shape communities, economies and society while applying the highest standards of ethics, integrity and accountability.
The Humanitarian Award recognises the efforts of those who are passionate about touching and uplifting the lives of others through humanitarian aid activity. The supreme characteristic of ethical leadership is integrity. This award is for someone who chose courage over comfort and stood up for what is right, regardless of the repercussions.
As general manager of finance at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), Ismail Lambat CA(SA) is making a significant difference in the lives of the most vulnerable, both locally and abroad, through his direct involvement in humanitarian aid work.
A key aspect that proves Ismail is a difference-maker is his direct involvement as a senior volunteer to respond to natural disasters experienced locally and across the globe, including relief provided to flood/fire/ earthquake victims, addressing water shortage issues through the construction of boreholes and so forth. Recently he led a project where more than 20 toy libraries were created for impoverished children.
Providing international humanitarian aid is an extremely complex and challenging mission. “Responding to natural disasters within hours is not for the fainthearted as it requires excellent emotional intelligence, superb negotiation skills, extreme levels of bravery and tolerance and willingness to make a direct impact almost immediately!” explains Ismail.
His dedicated and passionate work serves as a major inspiration to all CA(SA)s to get their hands dirty and get physically involved in serving the national and international interest and to actively utilise their business leadership skills for the greater benefit of humanity.
Ismail believes a person’s intentions dictate whether they will act ethically when faced with difficult choices. He displayed extreme bravery, integrity and ethical leadership during his tenure at Eskom from 2008 until 2020.
During the last three years of his career, Ismail made the bold decision to expose major unethical business practices and corruption that was later investigated by the State Capture Commission. He sacrificed being popular amongst peers, suppliers and those that were perpetrators of corruption at the national utility.
Ismail spearheaded the process of making protected disclosures against three major international suppliers which resulted in Eskom recovering in excess of R900 million.
He exposed himself and his family to major security risks during the process but strongly felt that as a business leader and a CA(SA), this was his obligation. Ismail endured an intrusive lifestyle audit, many hours of interaction with investigators, members of the state capture commission, members of the internal audit fraternity and others to ensure that the facts were adequately made available to law enforcement agencies.
Ismail received no legal support or protection from Eskom during this harrowing process as these disclosures were made in his individual capacity as a CA(SA).
In addition, he was compromised professionally from being considered for promotions and career advancements as he was known for his unwavering professionalism and unwillingness to conduct any unethical business practices.
Subjecting himself to such extreme levels of risk, fear and trauma had a direct impact on Ismail’s heath, as he survived cancer in 2016 and was under medical surveillance. Despite warnings from medical professionals to move away from such a toxic and stressful environment, Ismail felt a deep sense of obligation to his team that he led for over five years and inspired them to support him on his journey of ensuring that integrity, transparency and effective corporate governance were restored.
Being a leader with such levels of integrity and resilience needs to be showcased to inspire all within the profession to lead with such courage and determination.
Receiving the Humanitarian award was an emotional experience for Ismail. “Given the calibre of the other nominees, I was very humbled and overwhelmed emotionally with great flashbacks of some of the projects we have been involved with,” says Ismail.
What was particularly gratifying for him was that the CA(SA) profession acknowledges the contribution one makes to society and this is certainly the quality of being a business leader.
Ismail knows this award will make a difference in his career. “I am confident it will, as the world of business is pleasantly gravitating to a stronger emphasis on ESG and concern for the wellbeing of humanity. I would like to use this award as a reminder to fellow CA(SA)s that the skills we have acquired are invaluable and critically needed in the humanitarian space. These skills include negotiation, strategy, operations management, financial acumen, policy creation, ethics and corporate governance.”
In addition to progressing in his professional career, Ismail is committed to the global expansion initiative of the Ashraful Aid International Humanitarian Organisation. “Food security remains high on the list of projects together with the provision of clean drinking water across the most vulnerable parts of the world,” continues Ismail
He wants to encourage corporates to assist with the execution of their corporate social initiatives. “Sufficient funding and budgets for assistance exist in Corporate SA but corporates need to engage with partners who can assist with the logistics, reporting and governance required in the effective administration of humanitarian aid.”