The Chartered Accountant (South Africa) or CA(SA) designation is a very prestigious designation, and much sought-after. Not only does research support this conclusion, but if imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and if the increasing incidence of persons that are not entitled to use the CA(SA) designation holding themselves out as such is anything to go by, then everyone wants to be a CA(SA). Given the increased illegal use of the CA(SA) designation, is your CA(SA) a legitimate CA(SA)?
In terms of the Chartered Accountants Designation (Private) Act, 27 of 1993, only those persons who are current members of the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (SAICA), may validly use the CA(SA) designation, or its Afrikaans equivalent ‘GR(SA)’. To do otherwise is a criminal offence, and could render the unauthorized user liable to a fine of
R20 000 if convicted.
Many people confuse the attainment of the CA(SA) designation by acceptance into membership of SAICA, with the achievement of obtaining a degree at university and, in fact, if one were to ask most BCom (Accounting) and BCompt (Hons) students what they were studying, they would respond Chartered Accountancy. Once you have obtained your degree by passing the requisite examinations, it is yours for life and cannot be taken away from you – other than as a result of a SAICA disciplinary inquiry. In contrast, although you are also required to pass two sets of Qualifying Examinations in order to be admitted as a CA(SA), this is only part of the requirements for membership.
In addition, you are required to have the appropriate accredited academic qualification and have undergone a period (anything from 3 to 5 years) of practical training, before being able to apply for membership of SAICA. The final step to being allowed to call yourself a CA(SA) involves completing an application form for membership and satisfying the Board of SAICA that you are a fit and proper person to be admitted to membership. Even if accepted as a member, you will only be able to continue to use the CA(SA) designation while you remain a member of SAICA, and that entails paying your annual subscription to remain on the register.
But why would someone hold themselves out as a CA(SA) when they were not? Well, sometimes it’s due to an oversight – they have forgotten to pay their annual subscription fee, (often because they have neglected to inform SAICA of an address change and have not received the renewal notice), have had their membership terminated as a result and continue to use the designation. This situation is usually resolved amicably with the person rejoining SAICA.
What is of greater concern is the person that has never been a member of SAICA using the CA(SA) designation because they realise its value and prestige, and then mislead clients into using their services. It then comes as a great shock to these clients when the accountant fails to perform the services professionally and they seek to complain about this to SAICA, and they find that their so-called CA(SA) is not a member of SAICA and therefore not subject to its disciplinary jurisdiction. The protection of the public offered by membership of a professional institute is therefore of no effect.
The incidence of non-members holding themselves out as CAs(SA) has risen dramatically in the past year or so. From a figure of three to four reports of holding-out a year, SAICA is now receiving in the region of three to four reports a month. Why the increase? One reason could be that, as businesses expand and become more complex, business owners realise the need for the professional services that CAs(SA) can offer. The designation has achieved its high standing due to some of the following factors:
• The rigour of the education and training process.
• The rigour of the qualification process.
• Technical competence
• Multidisciplinary knowledge and experience
• Continuous learning and development
It is therefore no surprise that the CA(SA) designation is recognised on an international and local level as the premier business designation, including by those who are not entitled to its use. So ensure that your CA(SA) is a CA(SA), subject to the high standards of conduct required by SAICA, thereby offering you peace of mind in your professional business relationship.
Jan Dijkman, BA LLB, LLM, H Dip Tax ADL CFP Certified Ethics Officer, is Project Director: Ethics and Discipline, SAICA.
To verify the membership of your CA(SA), visit www.saica.co.za >About members>Verification of members.