On 10 June 2020, the South African Institute of Professional Accountants (SAIPA) successfully concluded its first virtual AGM on the Zoom conference platform. The meeting encountered no technical difficulties and digital interaction between the Board and its Members was seamless.
“I am very happy with the smooth execution and satisfactory outcome of the event, as well as how we were able to more efficiently progress through our agenda using technology,” said Kantha Naicker, SAIPA Chairman of the Board.
Voting on various matters, facilitated by the auditor, was conducted by way of the platform’s polling system.
Slowed but not halted
Although attention was devoted to the SAIPA’s response to the COVID-19 crisis, the emphasis was on our roadmap towards digital and service transformation to ensure that we are aligned to the requirements of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Particular attention was devoted to the steps that need to be taken to ensure that the profession, the Institute and our members are future-ready and well equipped to serve the interests of our country and the communities in which we operate.
During their presentations, both Kantha Naicker, the SAIPA Chairman and Shahied Daniels, the Chief Executive of SAIPA, drew attention to the fact that SAIPA had, despite being encumbered by the consequences of the pandemic, explored the most optimal and innovative ways of continuing to perform its responsibilities. By virtue of its new home-grown digital cloud-based platform and its willingness to embrace technological advances, SAIPA maintained operational continuity and was able to further enhance its service delivery.
“Because we own the intellectual property related to this system, so we are able to rapidly enhance its functionality and the services we deliver, not having to be concerned with proprietary restrictions,” said Daniels.
After the opening presentation by the Chairman, Daniels provided members with a summary of the Institute’s outlook and strategic direction during the year ahead. He emphasized the primary responsibility of minimizing the COVID-19 risks to which the staff and management, the board and our members are exposed. Furthermore, he stressed the need to continuously keep members appraised of the latest developments and of opportunities they could leverage to add value for themselves and by so doing enhance the Professional Accountant (SA) designation.
Daniels drew attention to the fact that globally the accounting profession was in a transformational phase, which was primarily due to rapid advances in technology that are compelling the profession to chart a new future. “Professional Accountants (SA) must move their current skillset towards what is needed to provide a business advisory service to clients; a service that is value creating and value adding”, he said.
Bearing in mind the developments in the profession, SAIPA will need to adopt a strategy that provides for restructuring the Institute in such a manner that it is future-ready and remains future-fit. SAIPA accepts that the ultimate goal must be to empower our members to become increasingly credible and trusted business advisors that are able to meaningfully contribute to inclusive socio-economic prosperity.
Daniels pointed to SAIPA employing a GREG (Governance, Risk, Ethics, Compliance) framework to guide it on the road ahead. Consequently, the Institute embarked on implementing the results of a major governance review that was focused on compliance, board and operational committee structures, policies and procedures, and problems that were encountered in previous years. “Our challenge for the year ahead is to ensure we consistently implement and enforce appropriate processes, procedures and practices,” he said.
Having streamlined its personnel requirements, the Institute is now committed to building a culture of trust and performance excellence, whilst simultaneously instilling a service philosophy that inspires its staff to deliver superior service to members.
With respect to CPDs, the aim is to upskill and reskill members by way of an enhanced competency framework. “We are developing visionary thought leadership that will secure our position as the Professional Accounting Organisation of choice,” said Daniels. Consequently, SAIPA had established a Centre of Future Excellence (CoFE), which is led by Professor Rashied Small, the SAIPA Executive for Thought Leadership.
The intention is to sharpen the further focus on rebuilding public trust and maximizing the ethical conduct of members. This initiative will inter alia involve the recertification of all members, the signing an ethical pledge by all members, the establishment of a comprehensive practice review system. This will be augmented by a major ethics and professional conduct campaign to reinforce the attention paid to public interest and trust.
An ongoing initiative will be to actively engage members by virtue of various initiatives, such as the monthly open agenda forum, which will be hosted by the Chief Executive and afford members the opportunity of sharing their wishes, concerns and queries in a face-to-face interaction, albeit two-dimensional. “Our intention is to promote a culture of transparency and to provide an open line of communication to our members,” Daniels said.
The AGM concluded with the swearing of new Board members, whereupon the Chairman closed what had been an uneventful and very successful meeting, reiterating her unwavering commitment to serving the Institute for the final year of her tenure as Chairman.
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