Eight expert perspectives on audit transformation


Academics, regulators, industry bodies and audit professionals share their thoughts on how audit can remain relevant.

On the back of a successful Future of Audit Series in 2021, ACCA has once again partnered with CFO South Africa to bring you a series of interviews that focuses on Audit Transformation, SMPs and important thought leaders in the audit space. Find out how the audit space can be transformed for a better future of audit.

Read all about the 2021 Future of Audit Series here.

Portia Mkhabela – multiple pathways into accounting industry are required
Portia Mkhabela (featured), Head of ACCA South Africa, Botswana and RMM, says transformation means rethinking how the profession operates and removing artificial barriers to entry. “At ACCA, we believe transformation is critical because it forces us to think differently about what the world requires from us as a professional body, to do things differently in developing the accountancy profession the world needs. From our perspective, and in the work we are tasked to implement, one fundamental question we always ask ourselves is, ‘How do we remove artificial barriers to the accountancy profession and allow entry at various levels?’ We believe we need to continuously improve and revisit our strategy as an organisation on how best we service our clients by responding to the current challenges we face within our country and neighbouring states.”

Bashier Adam – audit stakeholders need to define common objectives
The CEO of Nexia SAB&T says that the profession is facing significant changes, from skills shortages and the arrival of disruptors in the local market, to grappling with the unintended consequences of the new Auditing Profession Amendment Act. He believes that industry regulators and professional bodies need to play a role in addressing some of these challenges. “These are the people that are supposed to be building and preserving and protecting the profession. We shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that it’s the collective responsibility of us all.”

Buhle Hanise – acknowledge the good work that’s happening
The president of the African Women Chartered Accountants (AWCA) and CFO of Beijing Automotive Group Company (BAIC) South Africa says that the audit profession tends to only be put in the spotlight in the wake of a corporate failure. She believes the good news stories also need to be told, and this is one of the reasons that AWCA works to identify and acknowledge women through its Woman of Substance and AWCA Recognition Awards, including awards such as Audit Partner of the Year and Tax Specialist of the Year.

Prof Philna Coetzee – education needs to evolve alongside industry
As AI technologies and machine learning develop, transforming the accounting and audit professions, and academia will need to adapt accordingly, says Prof Philna Coetzee, associate professor at Tshwane University of Technology (TUT), who helps head up research in the institution’s auditing department. “Critical thinking cannot be replaced with AI, but much of the routine part of auditing can,” Philna says. “It’s already happening internationally and it’s not long before we will start to see that in South Africa too.”

Patricia Stock – agility is critical to transformation
The CEO of AfricaRAS says that transformation and agility begin with leadership, by setting the right tone at the top. “The right tone to reshape the organisation’s culture begins with governance structures,” she says. “If you’ve got a board of directors that hasn’t really embraced the need to transform the organisation, then you will find it very difficult to realise it, even if people in the middle and lower levels of the organisation understand the need to transform.”

Phuthanang Motsielwa – the industry is overdue for evolution
Phuthanang Motsielwa, director at PSTM Chartered Accountants, says that the audit and accounting professions have not experienced meaningful change over the past century or so, but as business models, technologies and industries evolve, accounting, along with other service orientated businesses, will need to keep up. “Traditional industries, such as oil and gas or mining, are still here and play an important role in the economy, but as technological businesses continue to rise, we need to ask if our accounting standards are accommodating new business models,” she says.

Fulvio Tonelli – prioritise strategies that address the broader financial reporting and governance ecosystem
The IRBA’s Chairman, Fulvio Tonelli, says the regulator will initiate reforms that positively impact audit quality in South Africa. “To date, the IRBA has obtained an understanding of the ecosystem of reform, considered different approaches, performed a deep dive into local and international initiatives, and considered the international developments and compared this to the South African ecosystem.”

Cheryl Reddy – public sector audit needs a rethink
“The historic way of testing compliance, financial statements, IT and performance, is not, in my opinion, assisting government in improving its financial position, and more especially local government,” says Cheryl Reddy, president of the Chartered Institute of Government Finance, Audit & Risk Officers (CIGFARO), adding that as local government grapples with how to generate and collect revenue, the way it is audited needs to transform to assist with challenges.

For more thoughts from industry leaders on where audit is headed, read our previous round-up of opinions on the future of audit.

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