Business’s PG support good, but where are Van Rooyen-praising accountants?

Labour leader Zwelinzima Vavi is among those who are impressed by the business leaders who went on the record with their support for Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan. In a speech delivered to investors yesterday he said those he has long “accused of complaining at night and complying in the morning” are to be commended for finally breaking cover. But by inverting, as chartered accountant Glynnis Carthy, there should be equal concern by those who are missing, Especially as Cathy’s own professional body, SAICA, was so quick to congratulate Zupta ally, the “Weekend Special” Finance Minister David van Rooyen. – Alec Hogg

By Glynnis Carthy*

While having a read through the list of the CEOs named in the article “Captains of industry who back Gordhan in war against #Zupta – 81 and counting”, I was struck by the apparent lack of response from Chartered Accountants and professional services firms in South Africa.

Glynnis Carthy
Glynnis Carthy

I wondered whether other professional services firms, for example legal firms, were equally silent? So…putting my bean counter hat on, opened a spreadsheet and started analysing…

Of the 81 captains of industry, only 1 – KPMG – represents the accounting and auditing industry.

How sad is that?

I have not seen any response from The South African Institute of Charted Accountants (SAICA) either despite the following from the SAICA website (my underlining is added for emphasis):

“The South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (SAICA) is the foremost accountancy body in South Africa and one of the leading Institutes in the world.  It plays an influential role in a highly dynamic business sector.”

SAICA was quick off the mark to congratulate our “Weekend Special” Finance Minister on the 11 December 2015 in the following (my underlining is added for emphasis):

“SAICA’s CEO congratulates the newly appointed Minister of Finance
As the Chief Executive Officer of SAICA, I have sent a letter of congratulations to the newly appointed Minister of Finance, the Honourable David Van Rooyen. At SAICA we ought to be active in facilitating transparency, integrity and good governance in the South African economy through pro-active engagement with government and its office bearers.
I believe that SAICA is well-positioned to promote responsible leadership by means of direct engagement and advocacy in order to facilitate effective influence. 

Most of the themes that will enable SAICA to contribute meaningfully towards effective accountability, good governance and a thriving economy could be initiated through the existing committee structures. I accordingly encourage members to raise the level of research and dialogue in our committees in order to enable SAICA to contribute positively to the country’s economy. In this way we will no doubt be viewed as a profession of responsible leaders.”

Why are the other accounting and auditing firms silent?

South Africa's shortest serving Finance Minister David van Rooyen. Photographer: Waldo Swiegers/Bloomberg
South Africa’s shortest serving Finance Minister David van Rooyen. Photographer: Waldo Swiegers/Bloomberg

And what of other professional services firms – alas, the legal fraternity puts us to shame even though there are only 3 large legal firms on the list!

A big thank you to KPMG – you are a great example of leadership. We, the Chartered Accountants, one of the supposed group of leaders, are silent while other industries have the courage to stand up and lead

There are many thoughts on what leadership is. The “action” part of the following definition of leadership struck me as important:

“[mass noun] The action of leading a group of people or an organization, or the ability to do this.”

Thank you to all South Africans that are standing up, taking action and making their voices heard. These words by Martin Luther King Jr show that in times of challenge, you are making an impact:

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

And for those of us who have not done enough…in considering what steps we can take to start being more courageous, I thought about Nelson Mandela’s words on leading:

“It is better to lead from behind and to put others in front, especially when you celebrate victory when nice things occur. You take the front line when there is danger. Then people will appreciate your leadership.

South African is in grave danger – let’s put ourselves on the front line!

  • Glynnis Carthy is a chartered accountant based in Melkbosstrand, Cape Town. She is an independent financial reporting advisor and previously worked at Deloitte.
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