The South African Institute of Professional Accountants (SAIPA) intends to fundamentally
re-imagine the way the accountancy profession is perceived, developed and utilised.
This was announced at an online media briefing presented by Shahied Daniels, the Institute’s Chief Executive, on Thursday, 3 September.
“We have begun thinking differently about what accountancy is and needs to be in a world marked by advanced technological capabilities and extreme socio-economic conditions,” he said.
Daniels outlined how SAIPA will approach these requirements.
Daniels said that in the 18 years since the Arthur Andersen and Enron incident, and in the wake of other major accounting scandals since, the profession has come under increasing public scrutiny. Accountants are expected to be ethical flag bearers, by providing quality information used to make business decisions which impacts the socio-economic well-being of people, and SAIPA’s objective is to regain the public trust.
“Adding additional regulations to existing regulations has proven ineffective, because regulations seldom change behaviour which drives ethical and professional conduct” he said. Rather, it is critical that ethics is continuously reinforced through regular training, awareness and professional bodies holding their members accountable.
SAIPA has therefore made ethics a compulsory part of its continuous professional development (CPD) programmes, aligning with SAQA’s current professional accreditation criteria. In addition, SAIPA members must now confirm their commitment to ethical conduct by signing an annual pledge.
SAIPA acknowledges that the accountancy profession is being radically re-imagined by the Fourth Industrial Revolution and plans to prepare its members accordingly.
“SAIPA will ensure its members rapidly transition from merely performing mechanical and repetitive tasks to become value creators and to be seen as trusted strategic business advisors by their clients and employers,” said Daniels
SAIPA’s premier designation, Professional Accountant (SA), will become a fusion of human competencies and digital capabilities to facilitate effective and ethical decision-making, he said. It would also expand into auxiliary services that extract greater value from accounting data.
This means they must acquire new skillsets, such as digital proficiency, data literacy, critical thinking, and strategic assessment of business development initiatives.
To improve secondary and tertiary accountancy education, SAIPA is developing an educational roadmap and curriculum that embraces data science, data analytics and digital proficiency as essential competencies for the profession.
SAIPA has also grown its National Accounting and Maths Olympiad competition to encourage school leavers to shift their focus from memorisation to cognitive development.
Further, the Institute has established a Centre of Future Excellence (CoFE) to ensure its competency framework aligns with an increasingly digital world, both in and beyond 4IR.
Small-to-medium accounting practices often build value by collaborating with non-accountants. To assist them, SAIPA has established the Centre of Business Advisory (CoBA) where non-accountants who meet its professional requirements can become affiliate members.
According to Daniels, the Institute’s long-running Project Achiever programme, which prepares candidates for its Professional Evaluation, and is funded by the Finance and Accounting Services Sector Education and Training Authority (Fasset), has received much attention for its lasting effects on broader proficiencies and soft skills.
Daniels said SAIPA’s initiatives are critical to ensuring the profession is prepared for a digital-driven future.
“They will also enable it to evolve its value proposition and service offerings for demands in business and society by creating value,” he said.
The date of the briefing was significant in that it marks the 14th anniversary of the Institute’s historic name change to depict the role SAIPA has been fulfilling in the profession over the past 38 years.
Author: Ragiema Thokan-Mahomed, Legal, Ethics and Compliance Executive,
South African Institute of Professional Accountants (SAIPA)
The increasing number of matters involving fraud, corruption and money laundering emphasises the role of the professional accountant to report any non-compliance with laws and regulations.
In July this year the International Ethics Standards Board for Accountants, established by the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC), introduced a new section to their code of ethics. The draft was out and available since 2016.
Non-compliance goes far beyond reportable irregularities, and includes actual or suspected non-compliance with data protection, securities trading, terrorist financing and environmental protection.
The newly added Section 360 in the code of ethics guides accountants to act in the public’s interest when they become aware, or suspect a NOCLAR (non-compliance with laws and regulations)
Roles and responsibilities of professional accountants
The code states that a distinguishing mark of the accountancy profession is its acceptance of the responsibility to act in the public interest (section 100.1 of the IESBA).
When responding to a NOCLAR, the professional accountant is required to comply with the fundamental principles of integrity, objectivity, professional competence and due care and professional behaviour.
Once they become aware of the NOCLAR they have to report it to their direct superior, and if they are the most senior person they have to consult with the board of directors or anybody who is involved in corporate governance in the organization.
The responsible people must be allowed time to rectify, remediate or mitigate the consequences of the identified or suspected non-compliance as long as there is no urgency in the matter.
SAIPA advises accountants to follow the internal route first. If they feel there is insufficient action to rectify the non-compliance, they can approach the regional forums and their professional bodies. If there still remain unease they should consult legal counsel.
The code acknowledges that a senior professional accountant is expected to apply knowledge, professional judgment and expertise. However, he is not expected to have a level of understanding of laws and regulations beyond that which is required for the professional accountant’s role within the employing organisation.
The newly added section provides accountants with an override to the principle of confidentiality when reporting the non-compliance is in the best interest of the public. Once they have taken appropriate action, they must feel comfortable that the noncompliance has been fully dealt with and remember to document everything.
Dealing with threats and intimidation
Professional accountants need to maintain their independence and objectivity, and not succumb to intimidation or threats when they encounter and report non-compliance.
South African legislation supports this professional duty in the form of the Protected Disclosures Act.
The code states that where it is not possible to reduce the threat to an acceptable level, a professional accountant shall refuse to remain associated with information that is considered misleading or may cancel their mandate to ensure that the code is upheld
The Letter of Engagement should reflect clearly that the client’s information will be held confidential, but if there is a legal or professional duty to disclose non-compliance the professional accountant will not hesitate to do so. This sets the ground rules for the client to understand that the professional accountant will not tolerate non-compliance if it impacts on the public’s best interest. The accountant has a trained eye, and can determine if something seems untoward.
It is critical for the professional accountant to meticulously document what he has done to address the non-compliance. This will act as proof that he adhered to the requirements and responsibilities set out in the new section of the code.
It is advisable to document the nature of the matter, the results of discussions with a superior or, and where applicable, those charged with governance.
It is important to document the response of the accountant’s superior, the courses of action taken by the professional accountant and the judgments made and the decisions that were taken.
The International Ethics Standards Board for Accountants:
MEDIA CONTACT: Idéle Prinsloo, 082 573 9219, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.atthatpoint.co.za
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