SAICA’s principal purpose is the enhancement of the relevance, values, competence and influence of its members in South Africa and abroad, and to contribute to economic and social development in South Africa as documented in its constitution. To achieve its purpose, SAICA has adopted as one of its fundamental and enduring long-term ancillary objects for itself and its members and associates, the objective to act in the public interest and to safeguard the values of the profession. This includes upholding, promoting and enforcing the highest ethical standards.
SAICA is the custodian of ethics in the profession and the SAICA board has adopted the International Code of Ethics for Professional Accountants (including International Independence Standards) as released by the International Ethics Standards Board for Accountants’ (IESBA) (2018) in its entirety.
SAICA has, however, included additional guidance to assist in the local application of certain requirements applicable to all SAICA members and associates.
Internally, SAICA has adopted the ethical principles contained in the King IV Report on Corporate Governance Code (2016) (King IV) wholeheartedly.
These have been re-affirmed in SAICA’s by-laws to progress SAICA’s ethics management beyond mere compliance and to enhance value creation.
SAICA has established a social, ethics and transformation sub-committee (SETCo) to oversee SAICA’s ethics management, responsible corporate citizenship and stakeholder relationships as delegated by the SAICA board, even though SAICA is not legally required to establish a social and ethics committee.
Reaffirming SAICA’s and SAICA’s employee commitment to ethics values and ethical aspects
SAICA management established an internal ethics and compliance department to manage and enhance SAICA’s internal ethical culture. The first initiative embarked upon during 2019 was the review and refreshing of SAICA’s core values in line with its revised purpose, objectives and refined strategy. The achievement of any organisation’s purpose is dependent on the culture within the organisation as created/premised on its core values.
It was of utmost importance to obtain buy-in to this process throughout SAICA. SAICA’s revision and formulation of its core values were done through an interactive employee ‘values workshop’. The six core values that were formulated via an employee ‘values formulation survey’ and reviewed and approved by ExCo and further endorsed by SETCo and the board are set out in figure 1.
These core values form the foundation of SAICA’s ethical culture and are underpinned by the following:
- The consideration of what is good and right for yourself and others
- The ability to distinguish between right and wrong
- The commitment towards doing what is right
Ethics implementation programme
An internal ethics implementation programme approved by SETCo was launched and is ongoing. The main purpose of this programme is to institutionalise the employee Code of Ethics and enhance SAICA’s ethical culture by ensuring that the spirit of the Code of Ethics is understood and embraced by employees and stakeholders, carried through in all SAICA’s codes of conduct, policies and procedures, and practised on a continuous basis to stimulate ethical behaviour and decision-making throughout SAICA.
Implementation of the values across the organisation commenced with the alignment of internal policies and processes to these values.
Code of Ethics
The Code of Ethics was updated and its alignment to best practices and codes confirmed. The Code of Ethics provides clarity to employees and all stakeholders on the ethical standards that should prevail in terms of relationships between SAICA and its stakeholders.
Codes of Conduct
The highest standards of ethical business conduct are required from employees in fulfilling their duties and responsibilities towards SAICA. An employee Code of Conduct has been developed and implemented. Its main objective is to set out SAICA’s expectations in regard to employees’ behaviour towards SAICA, members, colleagues and other stakeholders. The Code of Conduct aims to provide a behavioural direction and guidance to SAICA employees and assist in the maintenance and enhancement of an ethical culture within SAICA, which is aligned with its disciplinary code and procedure, compliance policy and manual, fraud prevention policy, conflict of interest and gift policy, to name a few.
The development and implementation of the above programmes will help clear the way to restoration and development of trust in SAICA and the profession by developing, maintaining and enhancing ethical acumen of SAICA employees and over the life cycle of its members. Ethics management is a journey, and ongoing interventions are necessary to constantly create awareness and maintain and enhance ethical behaviour and decision-making.
This may include communication, awareness campaigns, monitoring internal and external stakeholders’ knowledge and understanding of the code(s) or guidelines, as well as celebrating good ethical behaviour and dealing with poor behaviour decisively.
AUTHOR | Amanda De Beer Nel, Project Director: Ethics and Compliance, SAICA