So is the grass in the world of public accountancy greener?



There has long been debate sometimes playful and more often contentious between the private and public sectors across the world.  The field of accountancy is no different.

To some the world of private corporations is a world of high salaries and low ethics and the public sector is viewed as a ‘cushy’ number with no real performance measurements and a job for life.

When I think of a public accountant I think civil servant – a person employed by the state to serve the government and civil society. I wonder if this is how you see yourselves in South Africa.

On the surface we might envy your position in the country – apparent certainty of employment, a steady income and opportunity and connections; yet I do not envy you your roles.  You are faced with a higher level of regulation & compliance than at any other time while at the same time being buffeted by political pressures and what appears to be from the outside undue and inappropriate influence to circumvent these regulations.  Corruption appears to be taken as the ‘norm’.  How do you as a public accountant keep true to your professional ethics in this environment and continue to be in the service of the society that employs you?     

I believe as a group, public accountants need to take a stand – holding to the professional ethics and ensuring you remain true stewards of the ‘assets’ you are entrusted to capture, monitor and report on while still ensuring you don’t hold the system to ransom with heavy bureaucratic processes.

Your integrity needs to be beyond question. 

You need to lead by example and to be trust worthy in the very essence of your being. 

If you fiddle on your expense claims or turn a blind eye to it in the government departments you work in, how can you be entrusted to provide service to your ultimate stakeholders – civil society?  The consequences of inappropriate actions are not a loss of profit and shareholder value for investors but long term erosion of the countries balance sheet which affects our children and our children’s, children.

Our professional bodies and fellow accountants need to support you actively in this task. In South Africa this unity is critical in ensuring support for you in adhering to our professional standards and ethics that we all signed up to.

I believe that through a united strength that we can stop the erosion through waste and corruption and leave a real legacy for future generations.

Guest Blog – Marie McCrea – Partner – Centre for Innovative Leadership