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Saica looks to help get SA back on track

Jul 02 2017 06:00
Justin Brown

Spearheading research, stakeholder engagement and compliance with ethical standards forms part of the accounting body’s contribution.

The South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (Saica) is looking to help the country emerge from its many and varied crises, which include being in a recession, having been downgraded to sub-investment status and facing large-scale corruption and alarming levels of unemployment, poverty and inequality.

Saica CEO Terence Nombembe said this would be done through “courageous conversations” in public and private, as well as through research conducted by Saica’s experts.

The research, he said, would produce well-considered ideas.

He added that Saica aimed to mobilise its members – many of whom are CEOs, chief financial officers and senior financial managers – to find solutions for the economy and society.

On the issue of state capture, Nombembe said there was a need for the improved governance of state-owned entities.

After the Cabinet reshuffle, which took place at the end of March, as well as the recent downgrading of South Africa to “junk” status by ratings agencies S&P Global and Fitch, some of Saica’s members wanted to see “Saica take a stand and enter the public discourse on proposing political change”, he said.

However, in a note to Saica members in April, Nombembe said: “As a diverse-member organisation, and in keeping with our constitutional objectives, the last thing Saica should or will do is enter the public political debate.

“Saica has already engaged, and will continue to engage, with its stakeholders, including government, to outline and address the impact of the consequences of recent events.

“We need to collectively lead in upholding ethical principles and integrity among all the organisations in which we serve, with particular focus on identifying and exposing corruption,” Nombembe said.

“We will be holding a series of panel discussions with experts and stakeholders to continuously devise our initiatives to act on the suggestions received from members,” he added.

Referring to his former position as Auditor-General, Nombembe said when he moved to Saica, he left some unfinished business, including how to make South Africa a better place.

Improving the economy and society remained one of his goals at Saica.

Saica represents local accountants and has more than 40 000 members.

Nombembe said the triple threats of poverty, unemployment and inequity needed to be resolved, adding that better education was an important way to deal with these challenges.

He said local accountants were instrumental in fighting fraud and corruption in the country. This included reporting on irregularities they found while working.

Lawyers, together with accountants, were a “huge resource” in fighting fraud and corruption, he added.

Saica is on an accelerated drive to ensure that its members fall in line with a new international ethics standard called Noncompliance with Laws and Regulations, or Noclar.

This standard sets out a framework to guide auditors and accountants on what action to take in the public interest when they become aware of a potential illegal act committed by a client or employer.

In addition, Nombembe said, Saica was working hard to ensure that more universities offered accredited BCom degrees which were recognised by Saica and which would offer graduates a less tortuous path to becoming Saica accountants.

The universities of Limpopo, Western Cape and Fort Hare in the Eastern Cape all have Saica-accredited commerce degrees.

Currently, Zululand University in KwaZulu-Natal, Venda University in Limpopo and Walter Sisulu University in Mthatha in the Eastern Cape are in the process of gaining Saica accreditation for their degrees.

To support the universities in nurturing students and attracting the right accounting academics, Nombembe said Saica had been providing them with three levels of financial support: salary subsidies for academics; help with university infrastructure, including accommodation; and bursary funding.

“Accommodation is a key feature in helping students succeed,” he said, adding that it was a way of ensuring that students were properly fed.

Nombembe stressed the importance of maintaining a pipeline of accounting academics to ensure that sufficient qualified accountants were nurtured.

As part of Saica’s commitment to developing the accounting profession, it runs the Thuthuka Bursary Fund. Set up in 2002, the fund sponsors up to 300 African and coloured students studying BCom accounting at Saica-accredited universities annually.

Former FirstRand CEO Sizwe Nxasana is chairperson of the Thuthuka bursary.

Follow me on Twitter @JustinBrownSA

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terence nombembe  |  recession  |  saica
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