African accountants urged to get involved in international standards

14 May 15

African accountants should involve themselves more in the work of the international standards setting boards, speakers at the Africa Congress of Accountants agreed.

There was a wide welcome for the intention of the Pan African Federation of Accountants to facilitate African input into the global standards process.

Darrel Scott of South Africa, a member of the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB), told the session that Africa had the ‘intellect and the capability’ to contribute to conversations on standard setting.

‘The task that PAFA is setting itself is a terribly ambitious one in this space. You’re pushing against an open door. The approach that standard setters have is: “We want to hear the voice of Africa”.’

But he noted that African contributions to the standards debate had been dominated by South Africa and there was a need to extend influence.

‘We need to hear voices beyond those from South Africa,’ Scott told delegates.

‘The role I’m excited about seeing PAFA play is to coordinate those approaches. Don’t just go to easy countries but go to places where we haven’t got existing relationships.’

He also urged accountants to challenge international standards where they felt they don’t work, citing the example of Zimbabwe which has recently been ‘very noisy’ about problems it has using IS19 in its dollarized economy.

‘Zimbabwe has been moving strongly and aggressively to set up forums and structures to ensure there is a debate.

‘That shows you don’t need to be a big country in the world to get your voice heard. The feedback we have got back from Zimbabwe has been very useful in this space.

‘I got involved in standard setting because I disagreed with something IASB had come out with. We don’t just want to hear from people who agree with us. Be prepared to be aggressive and challenge the standard setters.’

Erna Swart, chief executive of South Africa’s Accounting Standards Board and a member of the International Public Sector Accounting Standards Board, said she was ‘delighted’ with the PAFA initiative.

She said the public sector was very good at setting rules and regulations for the private sector but not so good at getting its own house in order.

‘Let’s look at public sector standards and how we [Africans] can be involved.

Swart said she was ‘very sad’ that IPSASB doesn’t do much in terms of outreach.

‘We haven’t had post-implementation reviews of standards. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t get involved. Every time something happens, we should participate in the process.

‘African countries should start talking to one another and start influencing the process.’

Chishala Kateka, the sole African member of the International Ethics Standards Board for Accountants, also urged African nations to speak with a louder voice.

‘We have issued three exposure drafts and consistently had responses from Ghana, Kenya, South Africa and Zambia. What happened to the rest?’ she said.

She told delegates that Africa’s rapid economic growth made strong ethical standards more important than ever.

‘Africa is going to become a major player, not just in accountancy but in all manner of things. We need to be able to give results that show investors that what we are producing they can rely on.’

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