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STRAIGHT SHOOTING: Another year bites the dust…

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The year 2009 has been riddled with change, challenges and lessons.

In January, Barrack Obama became America’s 47th and first black president. In April, Jacob Zuma became South Africa’s fourth post-apartheid president. South Africa joined the long list of world economies to slip into recession, and was one of twenty-two of the world’s leading countries’ leaders to have attended the G-20 summit in London designed to contribute to global economic recovery.

Unsurprisingly, the chartered accountancy profession has also been faced with various challenges, changes and lessons. These include:

• in February, SAICA appointed Matsobane Matlwa as its new Executive President following Ignatius Sehoole’s memorable nine-year term;
• for the first time ever, South Africa hosted the National Standard Setters meeting (Accounting Standards Setters).
• Professor Wiseman Nkuhlu represented South Africa on the Financial Crisis Advisory Group, which advised the IASB and US-based Financial Accounting Standards Board on the standard-setting implications of the global financial crisis;
• the IASB subsequently issued the final IFRS for SMEs after receiving input from South Africa and other countries;
• in September, SAICA hosted the Eastern Central and Southern African Federation of Accountants’ (ECSAFA) 20th Anniversary Conference for the first time. One of the major themes of that conference was the development and adoption of an accounting standard for micro entities; and
• sustainability reporting emerged as an imperative for businesses.

That was then. What are some of the key issues that will affect SAICA and the CA profession in the next year or two?

Professional Development
High quality education and training has always been the cornerstone of our profession. It is one thing to talk quality; another to demonstrate it. SAICA, having never compromised on quality, has certainly not fallen into this trap, with the launch of the new CA(SA) training model – the CA 2010 Training Programme.

In terms of this new model, prospective CAs(SA) can train in different environments to become business leaders that hold a higher quality designation. This is because the added rigour built into the CA(SA) designation will render it much stronger, and the monitoring process more robust. These additional dimensions will be complemented by the re-engineered education programme, whereby prospective CAs(SA) will emerge as high quality holders of the brand.

We shall continue to look at the CA(SA) education model, specifically going out to the market more regularly; and understanding what is imminent, and identifying business shifts and where relevant incorporating those shifts into the CA(SA) education model.

Financial Reporting
We adopted IFRS for SMEs and are in the process of launching South African GAAP for Non-public Entities. We have successfully created a platform for differential reporting standards.

Apart from the benefits that this brings to the economy, what most delights us is that IFAC and ECSAFA have both expressed an interest in leveraging off our platform, given especially that they have struggled to find a suitable, all-encompassing process for the development of a similar standard. We are one of the few countries to have successfully done that, so it makes sense for them to look at our solution with a view to replicating it.
Significantly, the micro standard is not South African specific; it can be applied to any micro enterprise anywhere in the world. Equally significantly, the exercise continues to position South Africa as one of the leading players in the world of standards and standard-setting.

Member services
Early in 2009, we launched the new SAICA website, in the process introducing a new and fresh image for SAICA and the CA(SA) brand. We shall be focusing on social media tools, such as Twitter, in the tax space or other forms of mass collaboration to get input on standards and legislation. We are also looking to create communities using social and other media to enable members to collaborate more effectively on topical issues – whether technical or business. And we aim to create communities on accounting standards to assist those struggling with issues like, for example, accounting standards.

Our aim is to make the website a one-stop-shop for our members, especially in respect of accounting, audit, tax and other business issues.

Africa strategy
We have always believed that strengthening the CA(SA) brand is part of what SAICA is about. In that context, we are looking at how we can assist other African countries to develop and grow their CA brands.

Our short-term objective is to assist students from southern African countries to our local universities to pursue the CA programme. The intention is to develop CAs, subsequently encouraging them to return to their respective countries to help grow the brand there, while enjoying a dual relationship with SAICA and the profession in South Africa.

Our longer term objective is to accredit those universities, which is more sustainable than bringing students from other countries to South Africa on a regular basis. The longer-term intention is for southern African countries to establish their own accounting institute and in so doing, build a pool of CAs and other relevant accountancy skills with the right knowledge and skills to contribute to the positioning of the region.

Enterprise and skills development
We are gratified to have established The Hope Factory as one of South Africa’s premier enterprise development initiatives. SAICA is playing in this space to create a platform for members to contribute to enterprise development. Every business must comply with the broad-based black economic empowerment (B-BBEE) Codes of Good Practice and, more often than not, our members struggle most with finding worthwhile enterprise development initiatives to which they can contribute.

Part of our obligation, as professionals, is to contribute to social and economic development. The Hope Factory has provided employment to more than 600 unemployed women to date. It will continue to empower a growing number of disadvantaged ladies.

I wish you all a safe and soothing break. We need it to face the challenges awaiting us in 2010 with renewed strength!

Nazeer Wadee CA(SA), is Chief Operations Officer, SAICA.