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Sarah McKenna Director for Operations

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Sarah has worked in Governance in a variety of sectors, including voluntary and community, education, charitable, professional, public, private and social enterprises for the past 11 years both in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

While living in Scotland Sarah worked within the Community, Voluntary and Charitable sectors. In particular, Sarah was responsible for the governance arrangements and processes of a charitable organisation wholly funded by the devolved Scottish Government, the Scottish Fair Trade Forum.  The Forum operated on an international basis.

Within the Forum, Sarah was responsible for governance arrangements. She established within the charity,  Board members annual reviews, Board reviews, annual reporting, quarterly reporting to the Scottish Government, Skills review of Board, Annual Declarations of Interests. Also, she introduced Fit and Proper Person review and the smooth and compliant running of each of the Board and Committee meetings.

Due to the nature of the spend of public funds within the organisation, Sarah took an active role in the Financial Reporting of the organisation including the implementation of a new financial software package.   She has also worked within the private sector, providing governance facilitation for a property development organisation based in Edinburgh. Sarah’s experience encompasses public, charitable and private governance support and development.

Sarah’s experience and expertise in working within regulated industries further developed when in 2010 Sarah relocated to Northern Ireland and since then has worked primarily within the governance and company administration.  On returning to Northern Ireland Sarah engaged with a public sector body, Utility Regulator Northern Ireland and was responsible to the Single Electricity Market Board and various Committees, which contained Members from Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland and Independent Members based in Spain.

Within the Education sector, Sarah has been responsible for the governance arrangements and process within the second largest Further and Higher Education College in  Northern Ireland. The key priority areas of governance were the responsibility to secure the efficient and effective management of the College activities and properties to ensure the quality of service that the College offers to learners, communities, businesses and the overall strategic direction of the College.

Sarah’s role was as an independent Administrator to the Board, separate from that of the operations of the College and centred on the governance of the Governing Body. Strategic development, financial arrangements and monitoring and compliance were key themes within this role. Sarah also had strong ties with the Department of Employment and Learning within this role as the Governing Body Members are appointed, through the public appointments process. Compliance and training were key factors of consideration and monitoring from the Department, which introduced Sarah to the development of the Governing Body as a whole and the individual Governing Body members.

Sarah has also worked for an awarding organisation with charitable status within Northern Ireland. Within this role, Sarah’s governance experience extended past the Board of Directors, to compliance with regulatory bodies including Ofqual, Companies House and the Charities Commission of Northern Ireland and also included the establishment and implementation of diligent governance arrangements and processes for the staff of the awarding organisation.

During her time with the OCN Sarah project managed an internal policy and procedure review for the organisation. This review involved the reorganisation and establishment of new policies and procedures to ensure compliance with regulators and development of efficient business processes. This project aligned with another IT development and implementation project that Sarah also project managed. The IT system development revolutionised the operations of the organisation, providing a smooth efficient process and most importantly benefited the learner.

Within the public sector governance work Sarah has carried out, she has been an integral part of the amalgamation of Councils through the recent Reform of Local Government in Northern Ireland. Challenges within the public sector relating to governance have been varied, providing Sarah with invaluable experiences. Governance structures have completely changed through the amalgamation process, included the hierarchy of the organisations, election of Mayor’s, Deputy Mayors and new elected Members, Committee composition and skills matrix, drilling down to style in which the minutes are to be recorded. A particular point of developmental interest for Sarah in this ongoing process was the establishment of a Maritime Board, the investigation of the compliance required by the Harbour Commissioner, the appointment of a Duty Holder and the responsibilities involved.

In 2014 Sarah established her own business to provide Governance support to smaller businesses within the public and voluntary community sector. Sarah’s clients were varied included football clubs and housing associations. Challenges facing these clients related to poor governance or lack of governance arrangements that Sarah had to establish to suit the needs and demands of the clients, along with the implementation of the governance and reporting structures. This role required Sarah to use her project management skills and change management skills.

Sarah has a BA Law (Hons) Degree from Napier University, Edinburgh and Certificate in Compliance Project Management and an LCCI Private Secretary’s Diploma from the South Eastern Regional College, Lisburn.