(Published - 3 May 2019)
The auditing and accounting professions in South Africa are facing serious questions around credibility and relevance. It is time, according to Auditor-General Thembekile Kimi Makwetu, for new professionals to guard the trade from these challenges.
Makwetu delivered the keynote address at the Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences’ (EMS) annual Dean's Honours Awards at the University of the Western Cape (UWC) this week. Top achievers from several departments, including economics, accounting, academic development, industrial psychology and information systems were celebrated.
Makwetu made reference to numerous companies that have collapsed over recent years. These included the downfall of Steinhoff International, VBS Mutual Bank and Health and Racquet Club.
“We still recall the damage that was caused and continue to be caused by the demise of those companies. As we reflect on these awards tonight, I want to suggest that we must guard against these tendencies ever visiting us again,” said Makwetu. “It is against this background that we must rely on these professionals, who we are awarding tonight, to continue to build an invincible fortress against those who continue to do wrong.”
Makwetu cautioned recipients that while obtaining high marks in class should be commended, it is equally important to maintain high ethical standards in the workplace.
“It is one thing to get 94 percent over an academic year and it is another to locate the importance and usefulness of your discipline in public life.There is a public interest imperative in becoming an accountant, an auditor, tax advisor and information technology auditor.
“Investors are not adequately empowered to protect their own interests and are not properly informed to make investment decisions. They often have to place their trust in the efficiency of the systems of protection put in place by others and in the honesty, reliability and competence of the persons involved therewith. So it is not about what was my percentage, how many years it took me or whether I was in the borderline; it is all about these men and women at service stations.”
In his welcome address, UWC Rector and Vice-Chancellor Professor Tyrone Pretorius congratulated the recipients on their achievements and saluted the academic and support staff members for their contributions to the students’ successes. “To be here tonight means that you have learnt to be disciplined about your studies and, very importantly, you are ambitious and want to achieve many successes in your life,” he said.
“You know what it is to work hard and to persevere. Because your determination, resilience and refusal to give up pushed you through the difficult times. And those are wonderful qualities to have because there will be many times when you will wonder about the road ahead, the problems that you are facing and the difficult decisions that you must make.”
Prof Pretorius also called on the award winners to contribute to society: “Use your talents and knowledge to address some of the ethical dilemmas and challenges our country is grappling with. Make a difference so other young people are able to follow your example and make a success of their lives too.”