Dr Iqbal Survé honoured to join International Bridges to Justice’s advisory board
THE GENEVA-based International Bridges to Justice (IBJ), one of the most prestigious global NGOs, announced the appointment of Sekunjalo Group chairman Dr Iqbal Survé to its global advisory board in Switzerland last week.
Karen Tse, the chief executive and founder of IBJ, expressed her excitement “to have finally convinced Survé, after eight years of trying, to serve on the global advisory board of IBJ”.
“Dr Survé is an influential African entrepreneur, a global business leader and a recognised philanthropist; he is the most influential business leader in Africa with the vision to shape the future of the African continent,” Tse said.
Survé currently serves as a patron or board member of a number of NGO’s across the globe, and Survé philanthropies through its seven affiliated foundations, which support initiatives in childrens’, women and human rights; climate change; healthcare solutions for the poor; education and science; arts and culture; social entrepreneurship and impact investing.
Tse said she was delighted that after eight years she convinced Survé to share his outstanding leadership skills and philanthropic experience with IBJ.
“We respect Dr Survé for his medical work with victims of apartheid and provision of medical care to a number of prominent South Africans during and after their release from Robben Island.
“IBJ focuses on ending torture around the world by guaranteeing all citizens the right to competent legal representation, the right to be protected from cruel and unusual punishment, and the right to a fair trial. I am therefore very excited to welcome Dr Survé on the Advisory Board of IBJ”, she said.
Survé was honoured by Amnesty International in Paris in 1989 at Unesco for his medical and ethical work with victims of detention and torture.
IBJ’s focus centres on the abuse of prisoners. They found that 113 countries around the world still practice systematic torture, but of this number, 93 nations had passed legislation declaring torture illegal. “It is extremely hard to get people to care,” Tse said. But society needs to care, she argued, because “at the end of the day, the rule of law is the bedrock of a stable society”.
Survé indicated that Tse had tried to convince him to join the IBJ advisory board for a number of years, but due to his busy schedule and global commitments he was not then able to accede to this request.
He said: “However, the plight of prisoners, be they imprisoned for petty crime, for refugee status as immigrants or wrongfully imprisoned, especially in developing and poor countries, where they have no access to legal representation, has become a major global issue.
“Prisoners are often kept for long periods of time without having gone to trial or being convicted. Many prisoners are often abused by authorities, simply because they don’t have the means to defend themselves.
“The plight of prisoners is an extension of my own work, which I did during the apartheid years with political prisoners, recognising the traumatic effects of imprisonment on their mental, psychological and physical wellbeing. The work of the IBJ, while not focused exclusively on political prisoners, is an extension of this work. I am therefore honoured and looking forward to working with Karen Tse and the IBJ Advisory Board,” Survé said. Dr Survé is the chairman of Survé Philanthropies and seven affiliated foundations. He is also the patron of the Worlds Children’s Prize for the Rights of the Child, a founder member of the Clinton Global Initiative, and twice honoured by President Clinton for his work on philanthropy and impact investing.
THE INDEPENDENT Regulatory Board for Auditors’ (Irba) recent proposal of mandatory audit firm rotation (MAFR) for listed entities has attracted significant criticism from the Chief Financial Officers’ (CFO) Forum, which represents chief financial officers of major JSE listed and stateowned companies.
MAFR comes at a time when issues of audit independence, the maintenance of audit and reporting standards as well as transformation represent key touch points for the profession.
Audit independence is carefully enshrined in all laws governing the profession and remains the bedrock of the profession’s reputation – a non-negotiable if the report of the auditor is to remain relevant for all users of financial statements.
Before considering some of the concerns raised by the CFO Forum, attention must be drawn to a dilemma unique to the audit profession which involves:
The requirement that the profession must schizophrenically serve numerous “masters”, being all users of financial statements as opposed to the client exclusively.
The fact that the audit firm is expected to be independent of the client, yet the audit fees paid by the client constitute the livelihood of the profession.
The recent CFO Forum press release raises many objections with respect to the Irba’s proposed MAFR, which include but are not limited to:
The potential to cost billions of rand to implement.
The failure by the Irba to provide evidence of lack of auditor independence and how MAFR will foster greater independence.
The global financial crisis in 2008 being justified as motivation for more audit independence.
MAFR will cause loss of institutional knowledge.
At first blush, the CFO Forum makes a good argument for MAFR being unnecessary, especially when South Africa is an international leader in reporting standards and audit quality. But, auditors will be aware that often things are not always what they seem. So, will MAFR cost billions of rand to implement?
The American CPA Journal provides compelling evidence with respect to the 12 600 public companies registered with the US Securities and Exchange and the subject of voluntary audit rotation. Between 2003 and 2006, there were 6 543 auditor changes, meaning more than 50 percent of public companies in the US changed auditors in a four year period.
Would 50 percent of US companies have chosen voluntary audit rotation over this period if these decisions meant additional costs in the billions of dollars? What about independence and the failure by the Irba to show a lack of independence?
He who pays the piper calls the tune together with empirical evidence of humankind through the ages clearly illustrating that financial recompense creates an umbilical cord of significant influence which has the propensity to cloud judgment and the familiarity of a continuous and all but guaranteed audit engagement creates the wonderful “old boy” relationship.
Would MAFR have prevented the 2008 global financial crisis which was a function of business risk as opposed to audit failure and will MAFR make a difference?
Companies very seldom fail overnight – it is a process which unfolds over a number of years and there is no doubt that business risk caused the crisis and failures of companies like African Bank.
What remains unanswered is whether the auditors of the companies which precipitated the global crisis ever assessed their respective clients’ business and other risks correctly in order to design programmes of audit work whose results would have identified these risks at an early stage. Is it not audit failure when an audit firm is unable to understand the business risks of its client?
MAFR will create a more competitive environment which is less conducive to allowing audit firms to fall asleep at the wheel. Simon Mantell runs a biscuit factory in Cape Town called Mantelli’s. He is a CA(SA) in business and served articles with a big four firm.
Dr Iqbal Survé currently serves as a patron, and board member of a number of NGO’s across the globe, and Survé Philanthropies through its seven affiliated foundations.