This article was prepared with the assistance of Nicolaas van Wyk, CEO of the SA Institute of Business Accountants (Saiba).
Namibian regulators have taken a close look at how Mauritius set itself up as a financial services centre and many in the country want authorities to emulate this model as a way of boosting economic growth.
This was one of the outcomes of last week’s Regulating the Profession in Namibia event, hosted by Saiba in Windhoek, which attracted close to 150 people, including accountants in practice, auditors, revenue authorities and the Namibian Financial Intelligence Centre.
“Creating a financial services centre in Namibia would be a huge boost for the country, and for the accounting profession,” says Nicolaas van Wyk, CEO of the SA Institute of Business Accountants (Saiba).
“Regulators in Namibia are very open to collaboration and dialogue with Saiba and other representatives of the profession.”
The Namibian Public Accountants and Auditors Board (PAAB) spoke of their intention to adopt the UK model of regulation, by accrediting professional bodies and allowing them to regulate their own members.
This differs from the SA model where professional bodies (other than SA Institute of Chartered Accountants) are not accredited.
The UK model that Namibia intends pursuing is considered among the most progressive in the world. What this means in practice is that if an accountant is not a member of a profession body, he or she cannot perform services for a fee. This is the same model that is followed among doctors, engineers and attorneys. The professional body establishes standards of competence and codes of ethics, and ensures members adhere to these. This type of regulation is less onerous than for auditors.
There are reckoned to be just 56 registered auditors in Namibia, which is tiny compared to SA.
Representatives from the Namibian revenue services were also in attendance, interacting freely with accountants and other delegates. The Namibian tax system has been plagued with problems, unlike the SA e-filing system. Some delegates wanted to know why revenue authorities did not adopt the SA system. As a result, Namibia tax filing is still largely paper-based.
Institute of Chartered Accountants of Namibia was also present and indicated a strong willingness to interact with Saiba and other professional bodies to improve the quality of service delivery.
The Namibian Financial Intelligence Centre spoke of its extensive engagement with accountants to combat money laundering. All Namibian accountants must be registered as accountable institutions (as opposed to SA, where only auditors need do this).
“We’re ahead of the curve in terms of providing a guide for our members in how to function as an accountable institution,” says van Wyk. “Saiba has prepared a guide explaining to its members how to do this.”
Delegates also urged authorities to remove restrictions preventing them from delivering accounting services across borders. Many Namibian accountants would like to be able to offer services in SA and other countries in the region.
The vast majority of black accountants in Namibia are Saiba members, which makes the professional body a crucial voice for the sector.
The next follow-up meeting is planned for May. Saiba will be assisting Nambia in establishing itself as an international financial services centre along the lines of Mauritius.
“Regulators in Namibia play a crucial role and maintaining order and creating an environment for business growth,” concludes van Wyk. “Accountants and auditors play a crucial role in supporting the work of the regulators by helping SMEs file their tax returns on time, assisting with new business registrations, filing reports on suspicious transactions, and submitting financial information to banks.”