VBS CEO probe one of 265 others as Saica seeks to restore faith in accounting field

An investigation into the conduct of chief executive of VBS Bank, Andile Ramavhunga, is underway, the SA Institute of Chartered Accountants has confirmed.

However, it is unclear when the investigation will be concluded, as 'high-profile' cases are not necessarily prioritised and Saica is dealing with high volumes of investigations.

Speaking to Fin24 after the DA announced the probe on Wednesday, Saica spokesperson Kulani Chauke said the accountancy body would "investigate if there are any breaches of the Saica Code of Professional conduct" in Ramavhunga's case.

Speaking on behalf of Willi Coates, Saica Senior Executive: Brand, Chauke said these findings would be presented to the Saica Professional Conduct Committee for further action as per the body's normal process.

Saica could not comment on the merits of the complaint until the investigation was complete.

It was not immediately clear when the outcome of the investigation would be available. Cases enrolled are announced close to the meeting date and once there is sufficient evidence to present the matter to the Professional Conduct Committee.

Furthermore, there was such a high volume of often-complex investigations underway that it had necessitated the establishment of a specialist compliance division to assist the investigation and disciplinary team, Saica said.

A total of 265 Saica members are currently in the disciplinary process pipeline.

"Due to the complexity and volume of complaints […] the Saica Board has also approved the establishment of a specialist compliance division to further resource the investigation and disciplinary team."

South Africa has faced a number of high-profile accounting and auditing scandals in recent months. Earlier this year, former finance minister Trevor Manuel criticised the practice, saying it was costing the country much-needed investment.

'Disrepute'

On Wednesday, the DA welcomed Saica's decision to investigate Ramavhunga "for failing in his fiduciary, ethical and professional duties".

The DA laid a complaint that Ramavhunga's unethical conduct had brought the chartered accountant profession into disrepute.

"The VBS looting that took place on Mr Ramavhunga's watch should not go unchallenged," said DA MP Alf Lees. "His reasoning that he was not aware of the bank’s dodgy financial affairs is in itself an indictment and an admission of his delinquency."

This did not make a difference to "poor South Africans who have now been left in the lurch while individuals who apparently corruptly benefited from the proceeds of criminal activities and their families continue to live in the lap of luxury", Lees added.

A thorough investigation would clear his name if he were innocent, Lees said.

Saica said it was determined to restore the public's trust in the accounting profession.

"We are confident that all our stakeholders will understand the necessity in the public interest to hold ethical, fair and equitable processes in disciplining members who are found to have violated the Code."

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