In an increasingly corrupt world, the role of the auditor is becoming more and more important.
Aside from the importance of the legal requirements for an audit, the undertaking of the audit itself provides valuable insight. Its purpose is to provide a true and fair view of an organisation’s financial performance and position and is critical for informed decision-making.
It also provides credibility to the organisation’s financial statements, can give shareholders confidence, and help improve internal controls and systems.
It is therefore imperative that CAs(SA) perform this duty with diligence, accuracy and transparency in order to root out corruption and pave the way forward.
Be skilled, sceptical, questioning, and act with integrity
Deputy Auditor-General for Western Australia, Sandra Labuschagne CA(SA), hated accounting in high school. ‘I never thought I would ever become an accountant,’ she admits.
During an appraisal review while working in the actuarial department of a large insurance company, Sandra’s manager suggested she explores becoming a CA(SA) because she was studying commerce part-time at the time.
‘He was the first to mention that this was not the same as high school accounting. From working with actuaries all day, I knew I didn’t want to just work with numbers so this was something to consider!’
She tried to study full-time for a while, but, living with a widowed mom, finances did not allow it. ‘When I was visiting her at her work, she showed me a small ad in the classifieds looking for a trainee accountant (or articled clerk, as it was at the time).’
Sandra phoned and was invited to a meeting the same day. ‘That was a Thursday. I started on a Monday in early June at a firm that is now part of PwC. So, I would not say I was inspired to become a CA(SA): I sort of fell into it by default.’
At the time, Sandra was studying part-time and working full-time. ‘I didn’t have much time for anything else. My weeks mainly followed a similar pattern: Get up at 3 or 4 am, study and work on assignments until 6 am, then get ready for a full day at work.’
Sandra studied through Unisa for her entire BCompt (after switching from BCom after her first year) and BCompt Hons. ‘This meant Friday mornings I needed to get my assignments in at the Unisa drop box in the Carlton Centre so that they could be dated as received on the due date.’
Friday evenings were for socialising, Saturdays for tennis, Sundays for church, and then back to studies on Monday at 3 am. ‘I was one of only two and the later three clerks in the Johannesburg branch of the firm who had not yet completed their initial degrees. This meant a training contract duration of five years instead of three, and I got one year of the four off because I completed my studies within that time.’
Through hard work and diligence, Sandra became the first female centre manager at the office of the Auditor-General South Africa (AGSA).
Being a CA(SA) offered Sandra opportunities for advancement in organisations where professional qualifications were required. ‘I was selected for a study tour of four countries while I was working at AGSA. Because of my qualification, I headed up the business unit that audited the South African Revenue Service and we toured the UK, Singapore, Australia, and New Zealand to check how their revenue services were accounting for revenue on an accrual basis.’
Sandra contributes her career success to having a line manager that recognised her competency and supported her. In turn, she now enjoys working in a team that she herself can support.
‘One of my first managers at AGSA, Graham Randall, was the first person in my working career to demonstrate the value of hiring and promoting for competence over anything else.
He was a great mentor and I now try to lead in the same way. I believe it’s important to be a manager who has your staff’s back and to work in a team that you want to have theirs. This may mean having difficult conversations but being clear is being kind. When you can mentor others, particularly women, you should.’
With Sandra’s experience in working in different countries and experiencing diversity in structures, legislations, and policies, she has been able to see what works and doesn’t in different situations. ‘I am a leader that is open to change and improvements for the greater good. With this mindset I mentor my teams to do the same.’
Sandra joined the Office of the Auditor-General (OAG) in 2012 and was appointed Deputy Auditor-General in December 2018. She was designated as chief operating officer in 2020.
In this role, she has contributed to the executive management of the Office of the Auditor-General for Western Australia (OAGWA). She has also led the audit business units to deliver high-quality standalone performance audit reports, focus area audit reports, reports of financial audit results, and a four-in-one information systems audit report.
Her advice to other CAs(SA) is not to get bored. ‘There are many different career paths for CAs and with such a choice, you should never need to be bored. There is always something new to work on or some new skill to build. If you aren’t using some form of electronic inquiry to assist your audit you could probably be a lot more efficient. This will apply to the use of AI in auditing soon, but all of the tools still depend on you to be skilled, sceptical, questioning, and act with integrity.’
Auditing is about more than just numbers
Growing up in communist Poland, Waldek Wasowicz’s family faced financial difficulties that prompted them to seek refuge in South Africa in 1990.
‘We settled in Vanderbijlpark, where my father worked as an electrician. I faced the challenge of learning English and Afrikaans at the age of 11. Those first two years of emigration were particularly tough, as we adjusted to a new culture and way of life,’ remembers Waldek.
‘Sport, reading and music were hobbies that I was enthusiastic about and that I still enjoy to this day. Coaching high school hockey was a particularly rewarding experience for me, as I have always been passionate about people development.’
That focus on people and their growth has stayed with Waldek throughout his career, as is evident in his role as CEO of PKF in South Africa today. ‘My deep understanding of team management has contributed to the success of the firm.’
As a people-focused leader, Waldek knows that investing in his team and helping them reach their full potential is essential. ‘I am proud to have made a difference in the lives of others, and I hope that my commitment to excellence and hard work will inspire those around me.’
Becoming a CA(SA) was not initially on Waldek’s radar. ‘As someone who had a passion for sport psychology and English, I was indecisive about my career path. However, my strong academic performance in mathematics, accounting, and economics led me to consider the accounting field as a practical and safe approach for my career.’
Waldek saw the potential benefits of a career as a CA(SA) which would ensure that he could be employed without much difficulty. ‘However, I soon realised that the path to becoming a CA(SA) was not an easy one, and I had to work hard to ensure I passed the necessary exams.’
Although Waldek’s journey to becoming a CA(SA) was a challenging one, his determination and hard work helped him succeed. He attended North-West University’s Vaal Triangle campus and worked at a small bookkeeping firm and as a bartender to support himself financially.
He pursued his CTA Honours through the University of Natal’s distance learning program, which was a unique experience, especially considering the limited technology available at the time. ‘I was successful in my first attempt at CTA Honours, thanks to the boxes of VHS tapes I received.’
After completing his studies, Waldek began his training contract with EY and later moved to PKF Octagon as a senior auditor. Over the past 20 years, he has steadily risen through the ranks to become the managing partner of PKF Octagon and the CEO of PKF in South Africa.
Waldek’s passion for finance grew over time, as he realised the crucial role it plays in the success of any organisation, regardless of the industry or niche. “This interest eventually led me to become a qualified CA(SA) and pursue a successful career in the accounting industry.”
Today, Waldek draws on his extensive knowledge and experience to lead his team and guide his clients. “I have a deep understanding of the challenges facing businesses in South Africa, and I am committed to providing my clients with the best possible solutions.”
‘Today, as the MP of PKF Octagon and CEO of PKF South Africa, I utilise my knowledge and experience to guide my team to achieve success. I have a deep understanding of the challenges facing businesses in South Africa, and I am committed to providing my clients with the best possible solutions.’
His pragmatic approach and ability to adapt to changing circumstances have earned him respect as a leader in the industry.
‘My interest in accounting is rooted in my fascination with people and their psychology. Working in a firm and collaborating with clients has allowed me to engage in a people-centric environment that I truly enjoy. It’s fulfilling to witness my team members succeed in their careers, and to be able to help young talent develop and grow.’
Ultimately, the satisfaction Waldek gets from helping people and businesses grow and succeed is what drives his passion for accounting.
‘I believe that accountants should be more than just number crunchers. We should be business advisors, empowering our clients to succeed and thrive. I am passionate about developing future business leaders and advisors and take pride in enabling both clients and employees to reach their full potential. I also believe that tech is an essential tool for business longevity.’
Giving back to the community is also important to Waldek. ‘I participate in a mentorship programme for black accounting firms, helping to position them for future success. Additionally, I provide pro bono audits for charities and serve as a treasurer for one such organisation. It is through these efforts that I hope to make a positive impact and give back to society.’
Ultimately, his goal is to build a strong and vibrant accounting community, one that is focused on empowering clients and employees to achieve their goals. ‘I believe that the accounting sector is about more than just numbers; it’s about people, and I take great pride in helping both individuals and businesses to grow and succeed.’
Waldek believes transparency and integrity are essential components to fighting South Africa’s corruption problem. ‘It is our duty to report any questionable transactions or instances of corruption that we discover. By promoting a culture of accountability, we can inspire others to join us in creating a more ethical business world.’
Auditing for the greater good
The one thing the managing director of Ngubane & Co, Nomathamsanqa Ashom CA(SA), loves about the accounting profession is the people she works with and has worked with. ‘I find that I am presented with an opportunity to learn something new every day. Secondly, it’s the opportunity to mould your career and your learning to what you want it to be.’
When she was a trainee, Funeka Ntombela told her that ‘becoming a CA(SA) is not about the qualification but more about what you do with it’. These words continue to motivate Noma to learn, evolve and become agile in an ever-changing world.
Noma decided to venture into the accounting world when her dream of becoming a medical doctor did not work out. ‘I figured last minute that it was not what I wanted to do and switched campuses. I was in my second year when I knew that I wanted to travel the world and work in some of the biggest capital markets. I believe this was the beginning of what has been a very exciting career journey.’
It has not always been easy. ‘Especially when board exams do not go your way, but I am grateful to have taken this journey with the support of my parents and friends. I had an amazing opportunity of training amongst the best and travelling the world which motivated me to step out and provide similar opportunities to those who are not able or choose to train outside the Big 4.’
When the opportunity presented itself to join Ngubane, Noma grabbed it with both hands. ‘I bought into the ethos of advancing previously disadvantaged black professionals and providing them with an opportunity to gain global experience which is why the firm was founded.’
Not only was Noma the first female CEO designate at Ngubane Group and the first female managing director at Ngubane Incorporated, but she is also deputy chair of the South African Auditing Profession Trust Initiative (SAAPTI) and has been nominated for various prestigious awards. She is also a committee member on the education board sub-committee for the Independent Regulatory Board of Auditors and a member of the board and audit committee of Vergenoeg Mining Company.
In addition, Noma serves as the deputy chair of the South African Auditing Profession Trust Initiative (SAAPTI), which is a voluntary committee that has been established by the audit profession to identify proactive responses to the concerns prevalent in the South African auditing profession.
Her contribution to the accounting profession has resulted in a judges’ commendation from the South African Professional Services Award (SAPSA), and most recently she was awarded the Assurance Partner of the Year award by African Women Chartered Accountants (AWCA) in 2022.
‘Being a CA(SA) has given me a strong foundation in accounting and finance knowledge. This has enabled me to apply my expertise in areas such as audit, risk management, corporate governance, integrated reporting, business analysis, international financial reporting standards (IFRS) requirements, and technical experience and project management in my professional life. It has given me a greater understanding of the business environment, allowing for better decision-making and problem-solving.’
She has also gained valuable knowledge and skills in areas such as executive management, leadership and strategic thinking. ‘On a personal level, it has given me a greater sense of purpose and confidence in my abilities, which I am sure will help me in any area of specialisation.’
A good support structure and personal conviction have played a major part in Noma’s success. ‘I find that these two things have kept me going when things were not going as planned.’
Her advice to young and aspiring CAs(SA) is to remember that it is not an easy journey. ‘I think it’s important to know this from the beginning. There are a few sacrifices that will be required from you, but believe me, it’s all worth it in the end. Your role is to work hard and stay focused and organised.
‘Make sure to keep track of all your deadlines and to plan out your studies and work commitments in advance, so that you can manage your time effectively. It’s also important to prioritise self-care and make time for yourself, to avoid burnout and help you stay focused and motivated.
‘Finally, remember that success doesn’t happen overnight, it is a journey filled with successes and failures, therefore, do not get disheartened along the way.’