This year has been an important one for us as the AGSA, having reached our centenary milestone. One of the themes of our celebration was a futuristic outlook, focusing on the youth. Any nation that invests in its youth makes a significant investment in its future.
Investment in building the auditing profession through skills development has been a strategic imperative for the AGSA for over two decades. In his address at the pinnacle event of our centenary celebration on 24 November 2011, President Jacob Zuma acknowledged the role of the AGSA in promoting accounting and auditing as professions among the youth. The AGSA strives to constantly rise to this challenge. It was indeed the dire skills shortage of these critical technical competencies in our nation which prompted us to seek partnerships and facilitate the accreditation of more universities that would enable more young people and especially those in disadvantaged communities to access training in these fields.
A reflection on our legacy
A question that often occupies the mind of any mature individual or entity is, “What shall I leave for those who follow after me?” It is imbedded deeply in the culture of the AGSA to allow for reflection and, if necessary, realign our focus. In this way we ensure that we make a meaningful contribution that makes a difference, is relevant and adds value to the nation. It was indeed such reflection that led in the past to a revolution in the work that we do. In this regard we moved from the broadly accepted practice of auditing that traditionally entails assessing and reporting on the audit environment, detecting the error and communicating it to relevant stakeholders. Over the years, we transcended to our current approach, where we add value to decision-makers by not only highlighting the error, but also providing insights into the cause of the error with a view to reaching a long-term sustainable solution. In this context, while the imperative of independence is not compromised, leadership is empowered with information and advice on key focus areas in their control environment which, if attended to, can bring about a marked improvement in audit outcomes. This has become a significant part of our legacy and we view it as part of our contribution to the 2014 clean audit target, to which the nation as a whole has committed.
Contribution to skills development
In the course of executing our mandate we have had to deliberate not only on the legacy that we would like to leave for generations to come in our practice of auditing, but also on the AGSA’s socio-economic contribution to our nation.
In this regard we continue to collaborate with sector bodies and learner institutions and also assist in qualifying chartered accountants, accountants and auditors, to afford opportunities to young South Africans from all walks of life within the auditing discipline.
Our 2007 memorandum of understanding with the University of Fort Hare is a prime example of such collaboration and permits us to assist the university to maintain its accreditation to the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (SAICA).
A number of professional auditors and chartered accountants have over the years qualified via our training programmes. These remain essential focus areas for us in our quest to demystify auditing and attract people to the profession and to the AGSA as an employer of choice and also to provide financial management skills to the broader public sector.
Some of our other initiatives, of which the detail is briefly articulated below, include the Denel Bridging
School for Commerce, our Trainee Auditor Scheme, the Thuthuka Bursary Fund, the External Bursary
Scheme and more recently our Centenary Scholarship programme as well as a number of key corporate social responsibility and investment initiatives.
Further contributing to the proud legacy of the organisation, the AGSA initiated one of its flagship projects, the Trainee Auditor Scheme (TAS) in 2000, recruiting and training aspiring chartered accountants, registered government auditors and certified information systems auditors. This scheme currently boasts about 900 trainee auditors, and has helped stabilise our vacancy levels. It has also contributed to the strengthening of our leadership and succession planning initiatives.
But the stark reality facing some students is lack of funds, which deprives some truly gifted learners of the opportunity to be part of our TAS, since a university qualification is a prerequisite. To come to the aid of such students, the AGSA has for the past five years been a partner in the Thuthuka Bursary Fund (TBF) project, which is a SAICA initiative launched in 2007 to promote transformation in the accounting profession. Since 2007 we have contributed money to this project and in line with rising costs of university tuition, the AGSA’s donation to the fund has been keeping pace with such cost in order to maintain the support of 40 university students per year.
In addition to the TBF, the AGSA established an external bursary scheme in 2000. This initiative started as the Denel Bridging course assisting students from disadvantaged backgrounds to arm them in qualifying for university entrance and subsequently offering them bursaries in their studies towards a university accounting qualification. These external bursaries are a pipeline into the AGSA trainee auditor recruitment programme.
Our corporate social investment initiative which focuses mainly on the adoption of previously disadvantaged schools, places specific emphasis on improving society and enhancing the auditing profession through our schools programme by promoting awareness of the accounting / auditing profession and influencing learners to select mathematics as a subject. A unique feature of this programme is the empowerment of the students with the vital principles of self-worth and selflessness, regardless of the underprivileged environment they may find themselves in today. This is an ideal medium to support the objectives of employment equity and the Skills Development Act and afford potential learners bursary opportunities.
As a centenary tribute, the AGSA launched the AGSA Centenary Scholarship Fund targeting high-school
learners and post-graduate students. The fund will cover tuition, books, accommodation and a living allowance and will be accessible to all South African citizens including the AGSA’s employees intending to study accounting and auditing.
Compliance with laws and regulations can be improved
In sharing our story with future generations, we intend to establish captivating museums at all regional offices of the AGSA, which will ensure continued and heightened interest in the auditing profession. Through focusing on the above initiatives and others of the same nature, we hope to be able to answer the question posed above, namely “What legacy shall we leave for future generations?”, with evidence of true accomplishment.
Remember to look out for my next column in January of the new year, when I will be releasing the general reports on the audit findings on national and provincial departments and entities.
As we round off the year, here’s wishing everyone a Merry Christmas and a delightful New Year!
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