Home Accounting and Auditing Saiba’s view on the critical skills list – let’s employ locals first

Saiba’s view on the critical skills list – let’s employ locals first


By Nicolaas van Wyk and Ciaran Ryan

The 2021 Critical Skills list is due for release in September, and this is something that is of particular interest to accountants.

As we previously reported in Accounting Weekly, the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) issued a CSL earlier this year and asked for public comment. Saiba submitted its views on this list, which is intended to fill positions from abroad (through the issue of work permits or visas) in cases where the job applicant has “exceptional skills or qualification.”

It is our view that SA has a sufficiency of accountants, numbering more than 200,000 if one counts the professionals plying their trade in this market, from bookkeepers to tax specialists, management accountants and CFOs. While some of these skills are in short supply – notably CFOs and senior finance executives – the same cannot be said for other categories, such as management and cost accountants.

The original CSL appears to have been crafted based on advertisements in relevant publications – while ignoring other common sources of recruitment, such as LinkedIn.

Some of the accounting professionals deemed to be in short supply are tax professionals, management accountants, general accountants, financial accountants, external auditors and forensic accountants.

Saiba members are active in most of these niches deemed to be in short supply. Many of them remain under-utilised and before we start importing these skills, we need to ensure our home-grown skills are fully employed.

While the Department of Home Affairs recommends minimum qualifications for different accounting roles, and membership of specific professional bodies, Saiba recommends throwing open the draft CSL to all professional accounting bodies in only those specialised areas of accountancy where an acute shortage is prevalent.

As we previously reported, South Africa’s critical skills lists should be an unbiased list in respect of all the underlying skills requirements related to all areas in the profession including:

  • company secretaries,
  • management consultants,
  • accountants in practice,
  • forensic examiners,
  • business administrators,
  • fraud examiners and even auditors

Each of these posts can be filled by members from any of the accounting bodies as long as these bodies are compliant with relevant laws and regulations related to quality, education, CPD, ethics, disciplinary mechanisms and performance monitoring.

The accounting skills shortage is less alarming than we are being led to believe. There are thousands of local accountants who have the skills, qualifications and ability to fill the skills gap the DHET says exists. Let’s put them to full use before importing them from abroad.