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Enhancing ethics through legislation

Enhancing ethics through legislation

The Auditing Profession Amendment (APA) Bill was issued by the Standing Committee on Finance (SCOF) for comments on 23 September 2020.  SAICA will be presenting their comments on the APA Bill at a parliamentary session on 14 October 2020.

The APA Bill deals with numerous issues including,

  • Requirements for the Independent Regulatory Board for Auditors (IRBA) Investigations Committee including the provision of subpoena rights to this committee;
  • The composition and functioning of the IRBA Board;
  • New sections dealing with the searching and entering of premises as well as the warrants to be obtained in such situations;
  • Disqualification grounds for registration as an auditor. 

The SAICA presentation to SCOF focuses on the disqualification grounds for registration as an auditor. Section 37(3(b) of the APA Bill states that, “the Regulatory Board may not register a person that has been convicted whether in the Republic or elsewhere of theft, fraud, forgery, uttering a forged document, perjury, an offence under the prevention of Corrupt Activities Act, an offence involving dishonesty; other than an offence committed prior to 27 April 1994 associated with political objectives.” 

In addition to the financial malfeasance mentioned above, SAICA is of the view that violent crimes should also be included in the disqualification criteria to register as an auditor. The underpinning characteristics in violent crimes often include disregard for both the rule of law as well as human life and such characteristics are undesirable and go against the ethical responsibilities of the auditing profession. 

Violent crime is a plague that continues to eat away at the moral fibre of the South African society. It places a huge resource (including financial resources) burden on the country’s health and law enforcement systems and the distrust that it fosters, robs citizens of the social cohesion required to build a united and prosperous nation. In addition to the state of national trauma and anxiety that violent crimes create, its consequences have a negative impact on how businesses operate and the allocation of capital by investors, therefore, hindering fiscal growth and economic development. Given that this is increasingly posing a threat to the development of the country, it is incumbent upon all stakeholders, including lawmakers and professional bodies such as SAICA, to collaborate and mobilise towards addressing the threat in a meaningful and strategic manner.

The purpose of the law is to secure the common good of South Africa’s citizens and legislation is a tool that can be used to effect change in a society towards that common good. Perpetrators of violent crimes, through their actions, act against the interests of the public, therefore failing in their duties as professionals.

It is in this light that SAICA believes that the current scope of disqualification to only include financial malfeasance in the APA Bill is too narrow. This should be expanded to disqualify or remove auditors where the person has been:

(a)    Convicted of any violent crime with no option of a fine; or

(b)   Where there was an option for a fine the IRBA should have discretion.

SAICA is also in the process of recommending an amendment in its by-laws to apply the same requirement to all SAICA members as well.

Conclusion

The scourge of violence is dehumanising the face of the South African society and robbing a young generation of the opportunity to grow up in a healthy and safe environment. SAICA, as a leader in the accountancy profession, encourages all of its members and stakeholders to be responsible citizens and to contribute in these discussions within their various areas of influence.