By Duncan Mlanjira
In her key note address at the opening ceremony of the 2019 Institute of Chartered Accountants of Malawi (ICAM) conference at Sun ‘n’ Sand Holiday Resort in Mangochi on Thursday evening, guest of honour High Court Judge Justice Zione Ntaba said professionalism should not only be evidenced through academic and professional papers but the output they can provide as a result of such glorious qualifications.
“It is imperative that professionals should be the key ingredient in the equation of development in Malawi and Africa in general as such we must step up and do more,” she said.
“We need great scientists. We need scientists in many faculties. We need more technology experts. We need a strong and vibrant Malawi Bureau of Standards whose seal should be a competitive edge on the international market.
“We need great minds in the manufacturing industry that will add value to the products made so that we stand tall on the face of Africa. Let it be the case that when people think of quality products and services in Africa, top on their mind should be coming Malawi.
“Germans have a strong grip on engineering, Singaporeans on Electronics, Mauritius is in the equation on financial services, Malawi has to be there also but we agree on what and that is what we have to answer by the end of this conference.”
She continued to say professionalism captures the fact that someone has undergone intense and extensive training and qualified in a specific field of endeavour and that these words clearly also resonate with the words of former US President John F Kennedy, who said ask not what your country can do for you, rather ask what you can do for your country.
“Let me congratulate ICAM for being a distinguished professional body that professional bodies in the country should endeavour to emulate. Your organisation and adherence to professionalism and professional conduct does need to highlight.
“I can say without reservations that ICAM is and continues to be the shinning torch among the professional associations in the country.
“For Malawi to prosper and grow its economy, it needs to build strong institutions including professional bodies that are strongly rooted in the rule of law.
“The Public Accountants and Auditors Act, which is to regulate the profession’s conduct says sanity in the profession is paramount. The Act establishes the Malawi Accountants Board to ensure that it regulates the accountants in the country and ensure that they are registered.
“But the question is this rosy picture we are painting, what is the situation on the ground? I can bet even without any empirical evidence that there are many unregistered accountants out there posing and indeed working as accountants to the contrary of the law.
“As a legal professional, I would implore that we cannot be talking about the rule of law if ICAM and the Malawi Accountants Board are letting this conduct slide.
“When we look to our neighbour, Zambia – this I hear does not happen and similarly in South Africa. We cannot claim to be professional and believe in the promotion, protection and rule of law if we allow others to work unregistered.
“The need for accountants to be vigilant does not only go towards the registration. Last year, the world has known how compromised accountants can be.
“We saw big firms like KPMG in 2018 embroiled in a number of controversies in the United Kingdom. Consequently, it is being regulatory investigated for signing off the accounts of Carillion, a public-sector contractor that later went bankrupt. A regulatory investigation is under way. Furthermore, it was fined by the same regulators for misconduct in its audits of Ted Baker, a clothing retailer.
“Notably, it is undeniable that for an economy to strive but also grow and be strong, accountants need to play its part in governance, more so, in corporate governance.
“They play a vital role in strengthening other professional bodies as well as Government organs or institution like the Executive especially the Office of the Auditor General, Accountant General, Parliament and Judiciary, Constitutional bodies like the Anti-Corruption Bureau, Human Rights Commission, Law Commission and Ombudsman.
“But it has also been noted that we need the accountants to also be strong in their work in the private, non-profit as well as religious sector. Let me remind us what we are gatekeepers in corporate governance, that transparency, accountability and security are critical in successfully running an economy and growing it to prosperity.
“So let us be leaders in corporate governance. It is possible for Malawi to be a great player in the economic development of Africa. We have the natural and human resources that can help us transform our country for the better.
“Malawi has wonderful legislation and policies which is in tandem with other countries in Africa so that our interfacing becomes easy. Consequently ICAM must ensure human rights in its business model.
“Notably, we also need to ensure that the International Agreements we sign in Africa should be binding and adhered to. Other economies will not stop growing and waiting for us to pull up our socks and catch up with them.
“If we continue with these trends, we will realise that we have lost out and will eventually have no relevance on Africa and beyond.”
One highlight of the conference will be the presence of staunch Pan-Africanist, Professor Patrick Loch Otieno Lumumba from Kenya, who is expected to deliver a speech on Saturday under the theme, ‘Harmonising Africa’s Resources for Africa’s Development: from Third World to First’.
He was joined by high profile African professionals such as Zambia Institute of Accountants CEO Bonna Kasinga; Pan African Federation of Accountants CEO Vickson Ncube and South Africa Institute of Chartered Accountants CEO Freeman Nomvalo.
Local speakers include Dr Betchani Tchereni (Dean Faculty of Commerce, The Polytechnic); Dr Thomas Chataghalala Munthali (Director General, Planning Commission); Prince Kapondamanga (Farmers Union of Malawi) and Charlotte Malonda (Competition and Fair Trading Commission of Malawi).
ICAM was established in 2014 and its role is to promote the accountancy profession in Malawi, to train accountants, to promote governance in Malawi and to enhance skills of its members by organising continued professional development (CPD) programmes among others.
The AGM, whose theme for this year is ‘Repositioning for Africa’s Economic Renaissance — Malawi in the Equation’, is ICAM’s supreme decision making body which has 2,200 members.
The success story of ICAM since its inception is that it has grown to be a powerful and respected body which influences policy matters in Malawi to do with governance, tax policies and financial management.
ICAM was first formed as Society of Accountants in Malawi (SOCAM) and established by accountants themselves. Some of the notable names who were influential in establishing SOCAM include Mr W.B. Mwenelupembe, Mr. Ramesh Savjani, Mr. Andrew Chioko, Mr. Nkodola Uka, Mr. Simon Itaye, Mr. Bob Martin and Mrs P. Kamkwende,” Gondwe said.