Auditing leaders explore how to uplift the profession and drive ethics


Finance Indaba panellists uncovered how driving ethical excellence is key to restoring trust in the auditing profession.

In light of recent corporate and audit failures, captains of the auditing industry put forward ways to increase the credibility of auditors and accountants at the Finance Indaba last week. In a session titled “Future of Finance: Driving Excellence and Ethics in the Profession”, Senior Advisor Jo-Ann Pohl facilitated a discussion with Imre Nagy, CEO at IRBA, Julius Mojapelo, CEO at IIA SA, and Zakariya Alli, CFO, at Fasset.

As accountants and auditors are at the forefront of driving South Africa’s business and economy, many stakeholders depend on them to offer insights and guidance to ensure success with integrity. As the landscape continually changes and is often fraught with economic, social and educational challenges, the panellists also unpacked the general future of the finance profession.

Imre began by highlighting how as standard setters, regulators and enforcers, it is important for leaders to promote the value of audit: “Audit is integral in the finance ecosystem. Corporate failure has created a lot of mistrust in the profession, so we need to bring people together and work together to restore trust in financial reporting,” he explained. Spirited discussion regarding how to create a space for better auditors and processes ensued.

It was mentioned that everyone involved would need to ensure that integrity was at the heart of the process. Imre suggested bringing awareness and education to the legitimacy of the profession and being agents of trust for a system that benefits South Africa. “Let’s lift our game and lift audit quality,” he said.

Julius put it down as a mindset issue, citing that all finance professionals should be determined to protect the economy and make it thrive, “Finance professionals are to the economy, what the army is to the borders,” he quipped. He emphasised that an aligned objective of what a thriving economy means for the whole country was key to making that mindset shift, “You don’t work for an organisation, you work within an organisation for the economy,” he elaborated. Ultimately one of the major take-outs from a driving excellence and ethics perspective was the human element; how your own morals, mindset and sense of responsibility will inform the way you do your job.

Zakariya also put forward ways to drive excellence: “Ethics need to be high on the agenda and embedded in everything we do. Accountants and auditors generally have the trait of being meticulous, but you need to be adaptive too,” he said. He also encouraged finance professionals to actively upskill themselves by deepening their IT knowledge and keeping up with CPD to ensure professional growth. As everything becomes increasingly digitised, how to complement finance expertise with tech was also explored as a suggestion for augmenting skills, alongside risk and compliance.

There was much discussion about how auditing teams should interact with management teams, as professional scepticism is a hallmark of the auditing profession, “Every relationship starts off with a mutual understanding. Ensure that you understand your role and the role of your stakeholders. It can’t be a cosy relationship, as an auditor will and must ask difficult questions,” said Imre. He advised being professional, structuring your engagement well, constructively challenging management and ensuring good governance and sustainable structures.

It was agreed that auditing is not a role for acting selfishly and requires professionals to be custodians of business and the economy. It is believed that a reduction of risk and fraud in the system will reduce the risk and pressure on auditors – enabling fewer failures and less negative publicity, ultimately restoring pride and stability in the profession.

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