Saica lambasted for ‘dropping the ball’
The SA Institute of Chartered Accountants (Saica) has come under fire by industry stakeholders for "failing" its members and dropping the accounting profession "into the gutter".
The organisation was heavily criticised during a Courageous Conversations event it hosted earlier this week.
Spearheading the assault was the JSE chairperson of the financial reporting investigations panel and former Saica employee Linda de Beer, who said that even the board structure of the organisation was "fundamentally flawed".
In her presentation, De Beer said the organisation’s mission statement was “too self-serving”, had moved from “hero to zero” and the profession was now a shadow of its esteemed former self.
“How did this happen? How did we get here? How did we, the accounting profession in South Africa – the world’s favourite, ranked number one by the World Economic Forum for years in a row – go from hero to zero in such a short space of time?” she asked the packed venue audience that included former finance minister Trevor Manuel, Saica chairperson and Deloitte CEO Lwazi Bam, and KPMG chairperson Wiseman Nkuhlu.
Speaking to City Press, De Beer said Saica had lost its focus and was not doing justice to its members.
"Unfortunately, in a way, they have become a bit of a sloppy organisation and they are not driving public interest any more," she said.
De Beer said the profession could not afford to maintain the status quo, as the country still needed almost double the number of accountants it has.
She said the Saica logo and the chartered accounting brand were, until recently, prized possessions that received privileged and protected status, but that was not so now.
Nkuhlu, who was the first black person to qualify as a chartered accountant in the country and is considered to be one of the godfathers of black professionals, agreed with De Beer on the sad state of the profession.
Speaking to City Press shortly after the event, Nkuhlu said such discussions needed to be had for the sake of the profession.
"We have a responsibility to lead by example through ethical leadership and competence,” he said. He pointed out that the negative media reports about bad behaviour by chartered accountants had cost the profession’s reputation a great deal, despite the majority of the professionals being ethical.
"Saica is doing some work, but there is room for improvement. We need a board that is independent – along the lines that are recommended by the King Code. We need to make sure that we direct all our priorities to our duties, to serve the public interests and not ourselves only," he said.
Terence Nombembe, the CEO Saica, has been seconded to the state inquiry commission, as the acting CEO Fanisa Lamola was out of the country during the event.
Saica has also been the recipient of public criticism from Khaya Sithole, one of its more prominent members, who publicly called for the entire board to be dismissed.
Sithole and another member, Ivan Swirsky, are facing separate disciplinary hearings, which will be open to the public as the organisation recently amended its bylaws to allow public access.
Though Saica has not disclosed the details of charges against Sithole, according to two independent sources close to the matter and Sithole, he is accused of forging a signature – an allegation he denies.
Sithole said he viewed the charge as victimisation for his outspokenness and the subsequent changing of the rules was a further step to target him.
“They obviously changed the rules for me,” he said.
City Press was unable to reach Swirsky to get comment on his impending disciplinary hearing.
Saica did not respond to questions seeking reaction to the comments made at the Courageous Conversations event.
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