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Be the change

SAIPA addresses digital transformation, good governance and compliance

Remaining relevant in the ever-changing, increasingly digitally led landscape of the accountancy profession can be understandably daunting for many professionals. However, stagnancy and failing to keep up with the times is not an option for the Professional Accountant (SA) who hopes to not only survive but thrive in the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR).

This was among the many resounding messages conveyed and reiterated at The South African Institute of Professional Accountants’ (SAIPA) 41st Annual General Meeting. SAIPA, which last year celebrated 40 years as a professional accountancy organisation committed to fostering a culture of value creation among professionals in accountancy, auditing, taxation, and business advisory, remains committed to ensuring its members embrace digital transformation.

In delivering the highlights of her report, Chairperson Radha Gouri (Prem) Govender reflected on the successes of the last 40 years for SAIPA as well as its journey to a new constitution, and the ever-changing world and industry in which this has taken pride of place.

“In a world that demands flexibility, particularly in the face of cutting-edge digitalisation that will change the face of our profession, remember that this will not be the last change. We must do it with good grace and a sense of pride for how far we have come as both an organisation and a profession,” said Govender. “In an ever-changing profession, we are fortunate to have a home in SAIPA where total dedication is given to ensuring that we remain at the forefront of innovation and technology.”

The Institute also emphasised the benefits of keeping abreast of the latest innovations and developments in the profession, asserting the importance of building these into one’s professional approach.

Supporting future fit professionals

Digital transformation has redefined the existence and operation of professionals in accountancy, auditing, taxation, and business advisory. In his address at this year’s AGM, SAIPA’s Chief Executive, Shahied Daniels, said that accountancy professionals would do well to embrace these digital shifts as much as possible. “SAIPA’s goal is to equip members to capitalise on 4IR to provide increased value to their employers and clients in the era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, as well as contribute meaningfully to the sustainable economic growth of South Africa in the process.”

From artificial intelligence (AI) and automation to robotics and data analytics, the reach and impact of digital technology on the accountancy profession is more present and tangible than many realise. In light of these developments and the need to nurture future fit professionals, SAIPA endeavours to provide members with opportunities and digital resources to support them in this digital age.

In support of this, SAIPA introduced the fourth CPD Digital Proficiency programme that includes compulsory modules on cloud computing, AI and data analytics. This programme ensures that all members have the opportunity to learn and develop digital skills, empowering them to provide an added layer of value to stakeholders, including employers and clients.

Working with Vodacom and NtaNet Solutions, SAIPA also launched the DigiHub in September 2022, comprising four phases. These include the Digi-Kit, offering members connectivity solutions, high speed network access, wireless connectivity, and a productivity tool fully integrated with MS Office 365. This is an exclusive opportunity for SAIPA members only, offered at rates not found elsewhere in the market. Additional member toolkits that will be made available later this year are the Cyber-Kit, Practi-Kit, and Hardware-Kit, all of which are currently in development.

Creating a collaborative work environment

For SAIPA to effectively support its members in navigating digital transformation in the accountancy profession, the Institute recognised the need to nurture the right culture internally, too.

To this end, SAIPA has developed initiatives and programmes that ensure a culture of independent thinking and collaboration is embedded across departments and permeates the entire organisation. This ensures that the staff at the coalface are able to use their initiative and intelligence to problem solve within their individual capacities. This also serves to break down silos because, as Daniels says, “one hand must know what the other is doing.”

Building agile and resilient governance structures

On an operational level, following an 18-month journey undertaken by SAIPA in consultation with members, new constitutional processes were tabled in June, having been well-received by the newly appointed SAIPA Board and Chairperson that officially took office in November 2022.

Future-proofing the accountancy profession

On the one hand, digital advancements leave many in the accountancy profession, including those in accounting, taxation, auditing, and business advisory asking if the profession is going to exist in years to come. On the other hand, the Professional Accountant (SA) who rightfully view these shifts as opportunities instead of threats will certainly hold the competitive edge.

“My professional opinion is that there will always be a need for the Professional Accountant. The difference is in how we perform our proficiencies and tasks in those capacities,” adds Daniels.

To achieve this vision and help members remain relevant and agile despite how the profession might evolve in the future, SAIPA works with standard-setting bodies and regulators in South Africa and globally, to ensure compliance to trends, standards, challenges, and demands affecting the profession.

The profession has also seen an increase in the use of the word ‘sustainability’, along with mention of the need for sustainability reporting. While it’s true that the profession must address sustainability from an environmental perspective, in terms of the impact the profession has on climate change in line with the United Nations Sustainability Development Goals, sustainable practice does not merely speak to environmental impact. For practitioners servicing the small to medium enterprise market, sustainability also speaks to supporting the survival of SMEs in South Africa.

The adoption of ISQM 1 and 2, which officially came into effect on 15 December 2022, is another approach taken by SAIPA to ensure its members remain relevant and credible through compliance to industry-accepted standards of quality assurance.