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STRAIGHT SHOOTING: Tightening the loose nuts and bolts

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During his address at the 2009 SAICA annual dinner, Trevor Manuel, Minister of the National Planning Commission in The Presidency, said: “The period of deregulation has come to an end. No longer can we rely on enlightened self-interest to regulate global markets. Just when we thought that auditors were dull, unnecessary, and simply a hindrance, we have discovered the crucial role that your profession must and should play in our global economy. Attempts to toughen accounting and ethical standards do not easily win acceptance; industry groups very easily lobby for rules that protect them and help them appear more profitable. SAICA should fight against such efforts. The integrity of the auditing profession and the CA(SA) designation relies on your ability to check the accounts of firms independently”.

Minister Manuel’s statement undoubtedly suggests – now more than ever – that chartered accountants need actively to do some introspection, identify and address any shortcomings within the profession, as well as the flaws of the past, and look at how we can tighten the loose nuts and bolts. Practically, this implies that, as CAs(SA), we need to be engaging with each other a lot more than in the past through actively seeking and creating networking opportunities.

It is clear that the profession is changing rapidly. It therefore needs to use every opportunity to participate in shaping the future.

That said, at SAICA we continue to invest and explore new services in essential areas of business. For example, we are looking at creating more discussion and knowledge around areas including forecasting, budgeting, performance management, valuations, due diligences, enterprise risk management, and others to address the needs of a broader spectrum of our member base. We have already established discussion groups, armchair discussions, courses, seminars, and books in many such areas to facilitate their effective development. In due diligence and evaluations, for instance, SAICA has run beginner and advanced classes for the first time. We can and shall go further, by encouraging our valued members to participate in discussion groups that will build for them an invaluable body of knowledge now and into the future. Apart from developing a knowledge base in these areas, we must aspire, as a profession, to be recognised as the thought leaders in the South African economy.

We are currently preparing to initiate a similar exercise in the spheres of forecasting and performance management. We hope to deliver classes at beginner, intermediate and advanced levels. Of ultimate value to members that play in those spaces is a channel for them to network and share knowledge with like-minded people, and grow their knowledge base and effectiveness. SAICA is well aware that, to be effective in this dynamic environment, we need to assist members to build more expertise. And we are working on it.

A beneficial corollary is that the focus of attention is not only relevant to members in business, but also to members in practice; ideally, the kind of services one would want to sell to clients and employers. Whether involved in small, medium or large enterprises, or in listed companies where the challenges members face, although of a different scale, are probably fairly common. For example, if a small business wants to buy another to grow, some measure of due diligence – evaluation, business case, return on investment and more – is critical. Yes, the complexity and scale differ, but not the principles. Therefore, all our members should relish the opportunity of sharing and growing knowledge.

SAICA is determined to equip members with the intelligence to advise their clients and employers efficiently. I earnestly invite input advising us on concepts and ideas that could add value to our knowledge pool. We have no doubt that our members have more than enough collective knowledge to set something up and get it going.

SAICA will be hosting various conferences for its members and the business community in the final quarter of the year. One of the major events that will take place next month (September) is the 20th Anniversary Conference of the Eastern Central and Southern Federation of Accountants (ECSAFA), which will be held for the first time in South Africa. The conference, a joint initiative by SAICA and the South African Institute of Professional Accountants (SAIPA), will look at the role of the accountancy profession in the sustainable development of Africa. It is a cross-cutting platform that will, among other things, highlight the means of attracting investment to African countries, and the challenges of doing business in Africa. The conference is relevant for anyone looking to invest in Africa or to grow their business in South Africa or across the African continent.

In addition, we are planning to host two other conferences, one of which is our first ever tax conference, scheduled to take place in October. The other is the 2nd Annual SAICA Financial Services Conference scheduled to take place in November with the theme “Shaping the future behind the Global Financial Crisis”. The idea is to get people in various sectors to network and share knowledge.

We continue striving to keep our members at the forefront of the accounting, tax and audit worlds, as well as other relevant areas. Our accounting and tax updates will continue to run this year, as well as in January and February next year. We are also looking at activity-based costing and a whole range of other services that should be of value to members in all constituencies and regions. I encourage members to visit our website www.saica.co.za for details on all services and events that are currently on offer.

In conclusion, I urge all our members to maintain the highest standards in all that they do, and to hold companies accountable to shareholders.

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

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