While the IRBA battles to keep up due to resource constraints, Nene says SA's audit laws need an overhaul.
Speaking to Parliament’s standing committee on finance earlier this week, Bernard Agulhas, CEO of the Independent Regulatory Board for Auditors (IRBA), explained the extent of the problem. There are just five investigators trying to wade through 150 cases probing conduct in the auditing profession, he said. Moreover, the resource and personnel constraints have forced the regulatory body to prioritise high-profile cases above all others. Agulhas stressed that the IRBA needs access to more resources to build investigative capacity.
“We do not have capacity. We do not have funding. We have 150 open investigations, not all of them are profile. We only have five investigators and no funding to appoint more. We have had to reprioritise and reallocate resources and focus on high profile cases… It is a challenge for the IRBA to manage these priorities with limited finding. Parliament has committed to giving us additional funding but at this stage it is critical to increase our capacity. We are keeping our fingers crossed not to come to Parliament and say we failed for lack of resources.”
Meanwhile, SA’s Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene said in his speech during the Treasury budget debate in Parliament this week that amendments to the Audit Professions Act are on the cards, in a bid to restore the credibility of the profession.
Among the proposed changes are stronger sanctions in line with international best practice; strengthening of the regulatory board’s investigative powers; and a reduction in the complexity of disciplinary hearings to ensure a swift, fair and due process.
The IRBA and the Office of the Accountant General are currently working on the proposed amendments.