Saica's transparency bid - a public hearing for commentator Khaya Sithole

Johannesburg - The South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (Saica) hopes to be perceived as more transparent, by opening disciplinary processes to the public amid heavy criticism of the accounting industry and its regulatory bodies.

The institute’s offices in Illovo were heavily guarded on Friday for the disciplinary process underway against Khaya Sithole, a commentator and chartered account.

Members of the ANC Youth League in Gauteng sang during the adjournment in support of Sithole.

Previous disciplinary processes were open to the public, but this was the first hearing communicated officially by the industry body.

According to the charges by Saica, Sithole is accused of acting without integrity and against the professional ethics of the accounting industry, while distributing allegedly fraudulent bursaries to students at the University of the Witwatersrand in 2014 and 2015.

Legal representative for Saica, Okyerebea Ampofo-Anti, laid out the charges against Sithole, who was appointed as Programme Manager of the Thuthuka Bursary Fund (TBF) at Wits University in 2014.

The TBF is a Saica programme, which offers funding and aims to increase the number of black chartered accountants in South Africa.

The head of the bursary fund, Nthatho Selebi, testified that Sithole forged his signature on letters of confirmation to Wits students, allowing 129 non-recipients to access funding, at a cost of more than R10m.

Sithole, who is represented by Advocate Tembeka Ngcukaitobi, is expected to make his representations after the adjournment.

Critics of Saica include former Finance Minister Trevor Manuel, Pan-African Investments CEO Iraj Abedian, and Sithole himself, who has told Fin24 that the industry body has been slow to respond to executives at KMPG, as well as CAs who were accused of financial misconduct at Steinhoff and Eskom.

The organisation has previously cited its rules in not disclosing which members are under investigation, but Saica changed its by-laws earlier this month to allow the CEO to publish a draft charge sheet against chartered accountants, once they have received it and the matter is deemed to be in the public interest.

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