The South African Institute of Professional Accountants (SAIPA) has ended its old model of issuing hard copy membership certificates, opting instead for a modern, online system of e-certificates.
“E-certificates will allow clients and the public to instantly verify the professional authority of our accountants and the authenticity of their work,” says Faith Ngwenya, Technical and Standards Executive at the Institute.
Each SAIPA member who remains in good standing with the Institute will be provided with a personalised digital seal. This must be displayed on both printed and electronic texts, such as their email signature, business card or financial statements approved by them.
Anyone can click on the seal, or scan its included QR code, to be taken to an online certificate confirming the holder’s identity and membership status.
According to Ngwenya, printed certificates and the process of maintaining them suffer from several shortcomings readily eliminated by modern digital technologies. Specifically, they are easy to lose and harder to replace, whereas e-certificates are downloaded from the Institute’s systems each time the seal is activated.
Physical certificates are also easier to forge and more difficult to validate. E-certificates, however, are updated with the member’s latest credentials and their current standing with the Institute at the moment they are requested.
“This real-time response to inspection requests means that users of accounting services from our members, can immediately see if they are dealing with someone who is qualified and has a clean record with their professional body,” says Ngwenya.
Building trust and professionalism
E-certificates prevent unaffiliated accountants or unqualified impostors from passing themselves off as SAIPA members who bear the Institute’s Professional Accountant (SA) designation.
This includes former members who have been found guilty of misconduct, remain non-compliant with the Institute’s requirements for continuous professional development (CPD), or no longer meet its standards for service excellence and professional ethics.
“E-certificates provide a significant level of transparency that will help us clean up the profession and restore its good reputation while protecting SAIPA’s trusted brand,” says Ngwenya.
SAIPA is encouraging the public to be on the lookout for their accountant’s digital seal and to click or scan it to satisfy themselves they are dealing with an authentic service provider.
If it is not displayed prominently on their vendor’s business stationery or electronic communications, they should query the practitioner about it.
The seal can also be used to provide assurance that a financial statement or report was prepared or approved by a qualified professional.
Shahied Daniels, Chief Executive of SAIPA, says the new system is part of the Institute’s larger strategy to develop Future-Ready Professional Accountants.
“SAIPA has committed itself to lead the evolution of the accountancy profession in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. E-certificates are just one of our initiatives for achieving this goal and ensuring our members remain relevant and responsive in a digital economy,” he says.
Physical SAIPA membership certificates were discontinued in August and should no longer be accepted as proof of professional affiliation.
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