The SA Institute of Business Accountants (Saiba) has issued a guide to its members clarifying what services can be delivered during lockdown.
The guide is subject to change given the rapidly changing regulations surrounding lockdown, but makes it clear that accountants are confined to their places of residence unless:
- providing essential services
- obtaining an essential good or service,
- collecting a social grant, pension or;
- seeking emergency, life-saving, or chronic medical attention.
Members are allowed to render professional services to clients remotely from their places of residence, which means offices must remain closed.
The following are considered essential to the functioning of the financial system:
- the banking environment (including the operations of mutual banks, cooperative banks, co-operative financial institutions and the Postbank);
- the payments environment;
- the financial markets (including market infrastructures licensed under the Financial Markets Act, 2012 (Act No. 19 of 2012);
- the insurance environment;
- the savings and investment environment;
- pension fund administration;
- outsourced administration; and
- medical schemes administration.
Members may only travel to their employer or customer for the delivery of these services. In terms of the Lockdown Regulations, it is the head each firm to determine essential services and which staff must perform these.
While SA Revenue Services (Sars) has been delared an essential service, this does not apply to tax practitioners.
Companies who are providing essential services are required to apply for and obtain an essential service certificate. Applications for essential service certificates must be made via the Bizportal website administered by the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission at https://bizportal.gov.za/essential_service.aspx. Members applying for a certificate must select “New Application”.
Anyone found to have contravened the regulation commits an offence and, on conviction, will be liable to a fine or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding six months or to both such fine and imprisonment.
In addition, the guide points out that members are bound by Saiba’s Code of Ethics for Professional Accountants which prohibits them from knowingly engaging in “any business, occupation or activity that impairs or might impair the integrity, objectivity or good reputation of the profession, and as a result would be incompatible with the fundamental principles.”
Hence, those found to be violating the Lockdown Regulations would, in addition to criminal sanction, may be subject to disciplinary action in terms of Saiba’s disciplinary policy and procedures.
Members are urged to familiarise themselves with the Saiba Guide here.
Accessing R200 billion funding on behalf of clients requires mobility
Saiba has also lobbied the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs to require members to continue operating remotely during the “hard lockdown”, but to allow them to visit clients’ premises for the collection of original documents required for the rendering of accounting services, including tax compliance and payment services. It further recommends that members in such circumstances be required to apply for a permit to travel from Saiba. If it is necessary for a representative of the client to travel to the clients’ business premises, the representative should also be identified in the permit.
It is recommended that Saiba and all professional bodies be required to maintain a register of all permits issued for a periof of six months following the end of the lockdown.
Saiba also proposed that accounting and related financial services be included in the services permitted to be rendered during the “phased end of the lockdown”, subject to compliance with all social distancing and hygiene-related conditions. Should a representative of the client need to accompany the professional even though that company is not permitted to operate during lockdown, a permit would have to be issued by Saiba to the representative. As in the case of the “hard lockdown”, a register of permits issued during the “phased end of the lockdown” would be maintained by Saiba for a period of six months following the end of the lockdown.