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The CA Charter is all but dead – next is to break Saica’s hold on universities

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By Nicolaas van Wyk, CEO of the SA Institute of Business Accountants

A week ago, we lodged our objections to the proposed Chartered Accountants (CA) Charter and the response has been huge and positive. Even CAs are quietly encouraged by our robust response to this outrageous attempt to entrench Saica’s self-assigned role as the voice of the accounting profession. We know this because of the many words of encouragement we received after posting our response to the Charter.

The SA Institute of Business Accountants (Saiba) has been highly vocal in its criticism of the unwarranted privilege enjoyed by the SA Institute of Chartered Accountants (Saica) in the economic life of the country.

We are pleased to learn that several other professional accounting bodies have lodged objections on grounds largely similar to our own. These bodies include the SA Institute of Professional Accountants (Saipa), Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (Cima) and the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (Acca).

Our objections to the CA charter are simply stated and can be found here. Simply put, in the name of promoting greater black participation in the accounting profession, the CA Charter deepens Saica’s hold on the profession. We at Saiba, and other many other professional bodies, are way ahead of Saica in terms of transformation and we deserve recognition for that.

This dead-in-the-water CA Charter proposed binding companies and state-owned entities to the Code, which means they will have to employ CAs and ignore accountants from other professional bodies. CAs (including white ones) would get preferential treatment over black accountants from other professional bodies when it comes to skills development, enterprise and supplier development and management control. Universities would be forced to push trainee accountants to Saica and no other professional body. Furthermore, Saica’s skills development body Thuthuka will get the lion’s share of skills development funds, leaving other professional bodies with little or nothing.

This CA Charter is a money grubbing exercise for Saica, which already has a massive R800 million annual budget. Yet CAs sit front and centre in virtually all of the corporate scandals that have brought the profession to the brink of reputational collapse. The solution is not to throw more privilege and money at Saica, but to open the profession to greater competition based on competence, ethics and performance.

The good news is that the CA Charter as it is known is all but dead. Saiba is lobbying hard to have this outrageous privilege cancelled and redrafted in a way that involves ALL accounting bodies. Not every accountant wants to be a CA. Many are pursuing worthwhile careers as business accountants, accountants in practice, management and cost accountants, bookkeepers and tax specialists. The economy needs all these specialisations.

Our next target is to dismantle Saica’s hold on universities and get the CA Designation Act replaced with an Accountants Designation Act. 

First up is to make sure taxpayer funding of universities is equally distributed to the development of all accountants. There is no longer room for a so-called BComm for CAs and secondary BComm for the rest. Under this regime, university accounting departments are run as Saica fiefdoms. This will stop with the fall of the CA Charter.

Second, Saica enjoys special privilege under the Chartered Accountants Designation (Private) Act of 1993. Our view is this private act violates the principle of general application – where laws apply to everyone in the country, not just to select groups. This private monopoly must be challenged, if necessary, through the courts.

Saiba has no intention of laying down in front of the Saica bulldozer. The South African economy needs an honourable accounting profession, not a CA monopoly.