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Interview: Icaz continues to shine

THE Institute of Chartered Accountants of Zimbabwe (Icaz) turned 104 years old this week. Icaz was established in 1918 in response to the realisation that there was need for regulation and monitoring of activities of the finance professionals then. The Zimbabwe Independent (ZI) caught up with Icaz president Tumai Mafunga (TM) to discuss various matters. Below are interview excepts:

ZI: Icaz  turned 104 years old this week. What has that journey been like?
TM: The journey has been full of notable experiences, achievements and advancements with Icaz establishing itself as a major professional body whose opinion is considered by major stakeholders when making decisions. The Institute has progressed from being focused only on developing and producing CAs to being an active player in the development and promotion of accountancy and audit in Zimbabwe. The Institute has also grown from being focused on accounting and audit issues to advising the government and other regulators on policy issues, i.e. a trusted voice and partner. CAs are more than accountants but business leaders and strategic partners. In addition, the CA(Z) designation has become respected worldwide with recognition by other professional accountancy organisations in the world and more than 50% of members working outside Zimbabwe and holding influential positions in those countries.

 ZI: What can we expect from Icaz in the future?                                                       TM: Icaz can be expected to continue producing business leaders who are ethical and agile to the changes happening in the different environments that they are operating in. Currently, the Institute has a project, The Future Fit Accountant, whose aim is to refine the Icaz curriculum and the professional experience requirements so that they remain relevant to the needs of the ever-changing and volatile world we are living in, especially the disruptive nature of technology. The Institute’s Continuous Professional Development (CPD) programmes will also be reviewed in the same manner.

In line with the Future Fit Accountant project, the Institute will also be delivering a number of short courses to assist accountants to remain relevant and up to date with developments. These include the Chief Value Officer course which will be delivered in partnership with Wits University. This course will develop accountants to be integrated thinkers and improve their focus on value creation, notwithstanding their number-crunching role. This course will be in addition to the Sustainability Reporting trainings that the Institute has been offering.

The Institute will also increase its presence with the introduction of the Public Sector Professional Accountant (PSPA) membership category. This qualification, together with the International Public Sector Accounting Standards (IPSAS) qualification, are meant to assist the government to ensure the successful adoption of full IPSAS reporting by 2025.

Icaz will also continue having partnerships with regulators and other professional bodies in their expert areas to deliver value to members and improve the overall state of accounting, audit and advisory in Zimbabwe.

ZI: What has Icaz achieved in the recent past?                                                          TM:  The Institute has had a number of achievements recently, with the most notable ones being the launch of the PSPA membership category with the first members of this category expected during the first quarter of this year, the delivery of short courses and trainings on topical issues such as Financial Reporting in Hyperinflationary Economies, Corporate Finance and Applied Taxation, IPSAS and Sustainability Reporting (ESG) and the collaboration with regulators and other accounting bodies to deliver seminars and discussion fora for accountants and other professionals.

ZI: All across the economy we have CAs as CEOs, CFOs and directors, including public interest entities. What do you believe makes chartered accountants relevant today?                                                                                                     TM:  CAs are made relevant by the nature and quality of the training, both academic and professional, that they go through en route to qualification. The nature of the training is such that it covers all the essential areas to produce a well-rounded professional and its rigour is such that it prepares the CA to be an ethical business leader who is able to navigate any set of circumstances whilst making appropriate decisions for the success of the entity they are in. Our CPD programmes ensure even older members are kept up to speed on developments such as technology.

ZI: Coming to you specifically, as a CA and the president of your Institute. You have had a distinguished career in accounting and finance. How did you progress to your current role?                                                                                                TM: I joined Deloitte soon after high school in the year-2001. I obtained my BCompt in Accounting Science Degree and then my Honours in Accounting Science with the University of South Africa as well as my Certificate in Theory of Accounting from Icaz. I then qualified as a Chartered Accountant in 2006. I rose through the ranks and was admitted into Partnership at 27 in 2009. I was then appointed as head of Telecommunication, Media and Technology for Central Africa which included Zimbabwe, Zambia and Malawi. At the same time, I was appointed as Head of Audit and Assurance services for Zimbabwe, a position I held until my recent appointment as the Group Treasurer for Delta Corporation Limited after approximately 21 years with Deloitte.  I worked with various large institutions during my time at Deloitte in banking, telecommunications, retail, manufacturing, agriculture and insurance which afforded me the opportunity to deal with various large industries and businesses across the country.

ZI: What do you hope to achieve before you retire?

TM: I hope to have lived my purpose. I would say to give more and progressively impact the life of others in a way that leaves them in a far much better position than they were in, in spheres that matter to them. For Icaz its ensuring that we continue to create an environment that produces Chartered Accountants who can effectively deliver globally. Positioning ourselves in a manner that is supportive of the economic agenda is also very important to me and I believe we can do more in being present and providing our views on what should be done to move the country forward.

ZI: How is the CA qualification being kept relevant today, especially as we move to the post-pandemic era?                                                                                     TM: As highlighted before, Icaz has embarked on a project to review and remodel the curriculum and professional experience requirements so that the qualification remains relevant to the needs of business and other stakeholders. This project is being called the Future Fit Accountant. This project came out of a realisation that when the qualification was introduced, it was designed to fit an environment in which there was a lot of emphasis and need on the technical ability of the accountant to interpret and apply tax laws and regulations and accounting and audit standards. That environment in which the CA operates has significantly changed due to the disruptive forces of technology, social awareness and the rise of sensitivity on environmental issues. The professional now in demand is a responsible leader who is ethical and creates sustainable value for a wide range of stakeholders utilising both financial and non-financial information. To produce this type of professional is the aim of the Future Fit Accountant Project.

The qualification will therefore be kept relevant as one of the realisations has been that the CA does not only need to have their technical competencies developed, but also their professional values and attitudes and other competencies which will enable them to deliver efficiently and effectively such as digital acumen and decision-making acumen.

ZI: What are the biggest lessons that you have learned during the Covid-19 pandemic?                                                                                                                TM: One major lesson was that in order to succeed one requires the following virtues: ethics, honesty, responsibility, agility and adaptability. I learnt the value of taking care of oneself and those around us be it at work or in the family.  I also recognise that disruption is all around us and a pandemic creates opportunities. The fourth industrial revolution is already here, and we need to be responsive to the changing needs arising from the pandemic.

ZI: In your view, what are the burning issues in the accounting profession that need to be addressed, and how do you propose they should be dealt with?        TM: Currently, the burning issue is determination of an appropriate exchange rate.  Solving this issue will solve other downstream issues such as legacy debts and property valuations.  This matter has resulted in various approaches being utilised in the market which makes comparability and legal compliance difficult. The relevance and usefulness of financial statements has been brought into question and there is a need to come up with a solution in a manner that meets the requirements of international standards while serving interests of local stakeholders.  The divergent rates between the official and alternative rates has created arbitrage opportunities that may work against the gains expected by usage of the auction. Business should win through operational efficiencies.

ZI: Speaking of the exchange rates, over and above just the reporting issues, what are the practical day-to-day concerns around this, including the auction, the economy and what are your views on this?                                                            TM: I would say financial reporting exposes the underlying issues that are on the ground, so the difficulties in the reporting start on the ground as one transacts on a day-to-day basis. The auction market has had a positive impact and the government should be commended for implementing the auction. It is however concerning to note the gap between the official rate and the parallel rate. This creates arbitrage opportunities which create inefficiencies in the market. The parallel market is a common phenomenon in all markets however the divergence we have seen in our market is excessive and needs to be contained.

ZI: What advice do you have for students at various level considering taking the journey to be CAs?                                                                                                   TM: My advice to young professionals is to always have a long-term plan and if you have the options focus on experience ahead of money in the early days. Focussing on amassing an additional dollar may hinder your long-term professional growth if you are not focussing on experience.

Fail fast, get proactively involved and obtain the experience. It’s ok to make mistakes and think differently.

Get a mentor early and get another professional qualification/experience that disrupts how you think earlier on in your career. It helps in your journey. Understand that when you operate through articles it is more than becoming an accountant; take time to understand the businesses you serve and provide commercial solutions to problems.

Define and act on your destiny authentically. Only you will decide how far you take yourself.

Watch the company you keep. Surround yourself with people who push you to become better and also push others to become better. Read widely.

Build lasting relationships. The people you meet and work with, will become the same people you call on for support at your points of opportunity or need.

Finally, find your higher being and be spiritually astute. God has been my guide and my spiritual journey with Christ has remained my constant.

To the young ladies I want to encourage you to take your seat on the table and take opportunities as they come. The reality is we live in a world full of patriarchy and male privilege. As men we need to recognise this and be deliberate about the opportunities we provide for young women and girls. I have daughters I would want to see achieve their dreams. Voice your opinions, be tactful and recognise that you are more than capable to take up any position or opportunity that comes your way.

ZI: Finally, what do you imagine the world will look like in five years, in the light of Covid-19?                                                                                                               TM : In five years, most things will be driven by technology. Most accounting and audit functions will be performed by technology with minimal human intervention. Some things which are the exception now will be the norm then, such as remote audits. In this world, the accountant’s role will have changed to being more strategy focused than traditional accounting work. The accountant will spend more time analysing, interpreting and giving strategic direction. It is this world that Icaz is preparing future CAs for.

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