Auditing watchdog appoints former FirstRand executive as new CEO

The new CEO joins the regulator that is tasked with disciplining an industry that has lost most of public trust.
The new CEO joins the regulator that is tasked with disciplining an industry that has lost most of public trust.

SA's auditing watchdog, which is investigating some of the country's largest accounting scandals, has appointed a former FirstRand executive to become its CEO from June 1. 

The Independent Regulatory Board for Auditors (IRBA) announced on Tuesday that Jenitha John will move from the Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA) SA, to replace Bernard Agulhas who has been at the board's helm since 2008.

Agulhas' contract as CEO, which came an end on March 31, has been extended to the end of June when John takes over.

John, who will still keep her current position as senior vice chairperson on the global board of directors at the IIA SA as she takes over the reins as the regulator is preparing to embark on a new five-year strategy from 2021.

Tasked with regulating an industry that has lost much of its public trust following major accounting irregularities in both the public and private sectors, the IRBA has been trying to convince South Africa that it is capable and eager to punish wrongdoers.

A year ago, it announced its first sanction against a former KPMG auditor who was involved in the assurance of the scandalous Estina Dairy Farm Project's finances, taking away his license to practise as an auditor. The IRBA is also pushing for more regulatory powers through parliament.

The regulator is yet to finalise its disciplinary hearing on Deloitte's audit work at African Bank before its near collapse in 2014, or ACT Audit Solutions' work at the failed Sharemax scheme which collapsed ten years ago. It has also indicated that it is probing Deloitte's work at Steinhoff and Tongaat Hulett.

The IRBA board said John, who also served as the chief audit executive of FirstRand in the past, has the necessary skill and experience to lead the regulator. 

"Mrs John has more than 25 years of corporate experience in diverse industries ranging from utilities to telecommunications, healthcare, insurance, motor, information technology and financial services," said the IRBA.

John, according to IRBA, has previously served as audit committee chairperson at Tongaat Hulett, Nampak and Adcock Ingram among other listed companies. She has been in the internal audit profession for over 22 years and is a qualified chartered accountant

Correction: The article has been updated to reflect that John will not be leaving her position at the IIA SA but will serve in both her current position as Senior Vice Chairman of the Board and as the incoming Global Chairman of the Board at IIA SA while leading the IRBA.

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