Sunday, January 16

A new reality for the accounting profession

International demand for South African talent and a low approval rate are affecting the availability of certified public accountants (CAs) in the local economy.

According to the financial recruitment consultancy Blue Recruiting, there is an increase in the number of young certified accountants leaving for the UK, Ireland, the Netherlands, the Middle East and the islands tax havens.

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Graeme Marais, director of Blue Recruiting, says that qualified CAs not only seek better earnings, but are also attracted to greater job security and political and social stability. “Working abroad leads to alternative passports and greater security in the future,” he says.

He adds that while the UK has always recruited South Africans, it is now recruiting more than ever.

The Netherlands has also substantially increased the hiring of South Africans, making it particularly attractive to workers under the age of 30 by introducing tax refund incentives.

Another factor contributing to the growing shortage of AC availability is the fact that many have been outsourced to large international companies, typically American, and now work from home.

Willi Coates, a brand executive at the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (Saica), says the number of members moving abroad was a “slightly higher” percentage than overall membership growth in 2021.

However, he says the exit was higher in the previous year when CA’s membership grew by 1,190 members, and the number of members leaving the country grew by 8% or 716 compared to 322 this year.

Landscape change

According to Nicolaas van Wyk, executive director of the South African Institute of Trade Accountants, the dramatic change in the South African business landscape requires a reassessment of business models, sources of income and the efficiency of local companies.

“The South African economy has been slow for many years. The pandemic, power outages and state capture have combined to put great pressure on public services and private enterprise. ”

He says the accounting profession can help address this new reality by rethinking what it means to qualify and become an accountant, and how the country retains the best talent it needs to help stabilize and grow the economy.

Van Wyk says that in Europe and the United States, “traditional accountants” account for less than 40% of all CFO positions. This number has been steadily decreasing since the early 2000s.

Companies are looking for business-focused accountants, CFOs and CFOs, with accounting expertise outsourced to specialized consultants and International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) audit firms.

“South African universities, empowerment charters, large employers, large auditing firms, and employment agencies must become familiar with the wealth of highly trained and qualified accountants who are underemployed and underutilized within the South African economy,” says Van Wyk. .

“Focusing on old-fashioned accounting titles and qualifications will prevent our economy from [from accessing] alternative talent pools and extend our recovery efforts. ”

Low approval rate

Marais refers to the low pass rate of candidates who write the second part of the Saica qualification exam.

The Professional Competency Assessment (APC) is a competency-based assessment that reviews the candidate’s ability to demonstrate ethical, personal, and professional attributes for the real-life tasks expected of entry-level CAs.

Marais says the 43% pass rate can be attributed to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic with its outages and candidates who have no face-to-face audit experience since they have been working from home.


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Marais says that even though more candidates take the exam each year, the number of those who pass it remains constant.

Big interruptions

“Unfortunately, with the huge technology disruptions during this year’s APC exams, we may see another year of poor results,” says Marais.

Saica CEO Freeman Nomvalo said in a statement following the chaotic December exam that the institute deeply regretted the “myriad of technical challenges” facing the candidates.

Challenges included problems with leased hardware and ancillary equipment, as well as Internet connectivity issues at exam sites, which compromised APC’s electronic writing software.

There are multiple reports that the entire experience took 15 hours for some of the candidates.

Saica has launched an investigation into the issues and said it would take all exam circumstances into account when assessing candidates’ competencies.

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