On 25 March 2020 the South African government announced a nationwide lockdown in which only those categorised as ‘essential’ are permitted to go to work. The rest, the ‘non-essentials’, were ordered to stay at home.
2020 … The year the world was divided into two distinct categories: essential and non-essential services.
I, Wadzanai Mabuto, a qualified chartered accountant, am at home. As I sit through Day 4, I ask myself a sobering question: ‘How did seven years of blood, sweat and tears boil down to me being non-essential?’ Yes, albeit, I am working from home (whatever that means). ‘Am I not supposed to also be out there? Saving the world? Surely my skills are essential?’ It was at this juncture that my monologue led me to one crucial question: ‘Why did I become a CA?’ If I am to be honest with myself, I became a CA because of the opportunities that it presented. The CA designation gave me power, it gave me position, it gave me stature; but did it give me meaning?
Like a child lost in a playground, searching for its mother, I too went back to whenre I came from and consulted the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (SAICA’s) Competency Framework and Code of Professional Conduct. I had to find what my ultimate goal of being a CA was. And then ‘Eureka!’, I found it! I had read these documents before, but this time, I read them primarily to find meaning in my chosen profession. The professional body that I belong to, SAICA, identifies being a ‘responsible leader’ as one of the fundamental attributes of a CA(SA) and further mandates that a CA(SA) ‘accepts the responsibility to act in the public’s interest’.
In an attempt to define and coin a new phrase ‘The Essential Chartered Accountant’, I will briefly describe what the following terms mean: meaning, responsible leader and public’s interest.
In his book Man’s Search for Meaning, Victor Frankl identifies three areas in which one can find meaning in life, namely work, love and courage. We will focus on the first one, being work. Work can give someone meaning if it fulfils the purpose of doing something significant. For something to be significant it needs to involve changing the lives of others. This leads me to the next point, that of being a responsible leader.
Jack Welch, an American businessperson, offers an apt description of what being a leader entails by providing the following definition: ‘Before one is a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.’ How then do CAs(SA) use their skills to help grow the success of others? This leads me to my final point.
In the public’s interest
The ultimate mandate of a CA is to make decisions that are centred on the interest of the public. This public can be defined as the South African population as a whole. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a global health crisis in which experts in the field of health have been tasked to come forward and serve their respective nations in order to solve the problem. As CAs(SA), we are experts in all things financial. And although there is nothing significant that we can do right now to curb this virus (other than staying at home to flatten the curve), we can ask ourselves: ‘How can we serve the nation in coming up with solutions that will help solve the financial crisis that we currently face (Moody’s downgrade) and have been facing?’ ‘How do we ensure that we as CAs(SA) are in the frontline in advising policy holders, key stakeholders and government on how to solve the financial crisis?’ In a nutshell: ‘How do we serve the public?’
As I end this article, my only hope is that as CAs(SA)we may take some time to consider the meaning of our chosen profession and resolve on how we can have significant influence in our various areas. This crisis that we face is not new to the world; we are just new to this. Search the literature, read, find out how those that came before us navigated their way out of situations that were beyond their control. Collectively, with one goal, one purpose, we can make a difference.
In the words of Mother Teresa: ‘What I can do, you cannot. What you can do. I cannot. But together we can do something beautiful!’
AUTHOR | Wadzanai Mabuto CA(SA) is a Senior Lecturer at UJ