Harare, Friday, April 13, 2018 - The CEO of the Independent Regulatory Board for Auditors (IRBA), Bernard Agulhas, addressed delegates at the annual Zimbabwe Accountants Conference (ZAC2018) hosted by the Public Accountants and Auditors Board (Zimbabwe) in Harare yesterday calling on regulators and institutes across the region to employ consolidated efforts to restore the reputation of the profession.
Says Agulhas: “Recent scandals involving accountants and auditors have negatively impacted the perception of what has until now been a trusted profession and current woes are pointing to a corrupted system that is failing in the protection of the public.
“Audit and accountancy practices have to walk a tight rope between profitability and professionalism. Part of the problem may well be that in the pursuit of commercialism the risk of compromising professional and ethical principles has increased. Too much attention on the bottom line and weak corporate ethics have left audit firms faced with bad press, loss of faith in the profession, destroyed reputations and public images, and disempowered stakeholders. The impact on investors and the public has been significant, and for countries that are seeking foreign direct investment, a recommitment to sound corporate ethics is absolutely essential.
“Part of the solution lies with regulators. We must insist on higher ethical and behavioural standards. There is too little pride for the observance of ethical standards to leave the job of restoring the public trust to the firms. Regulators must push for more transparency, and ensure that conflicting interests, independence and the dangers of unconscious bias are addressed. It’s not only about technical competency and improvement - we must insist on changes in auditor behaviour.”
Agulhas also emphasised the importance of ‘tone at the top’, a concept which has long existed in the auditing standards, but which the leadership in corporations and firms appear to have long forgotten.
He concluded by sharing detail on some of the initiatives which the IRBA intends to roll-out in South Africa aimed at improving transparency, audit quality and independence, as well as projects to revisit the competency requirements for auditors.
More about the IRBA:
The IRBA is a public protection statutory body established to protect the financial interests of the public by ensuring registered auditors and their firms deliver services of the highest quality. It upholds audit firm independence to ensure that audit quality is such that it enhances the accuracy and credibility of financial performance reporting. In this way, the IRBA has an important role to play in building the reputation of South Africa as an investment market for both local and global investors and driving economic growth for the country.
The IRBA also registers suitably qualified accountants as auditors, who must adhere to the highest ethics standards, and promotes the auditing profession through the effective regulation of assurance conducted in accordance with internationally recognised standards and processes.