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May 15, 2015

African accountants are slaves to a greed they don’t understand: PwC’s Sehoole

By Vincent Huck

Pailles, Mauritius. PwC Southern Africa deputy chief executive officer Ignatius Sehoole exhorted his colleagues to declare war on corruption, a scourge in which accountants can be both part of the problem and part of the solution.

As a panelist of a session focused on ethics and illicit financial flows from Africa at the African Congress of Accountants (ACOA15), Sehoole said: "We come up with schemes to bypass the rules with the promise of a suitcase full of cash, but who needs a billion dollars?"

He continued: "We are slaves to a greed we don’t even understand. Where is our conscience why we need a policeman to do the right thing?"

Sehoole said that over the three day congress, he had heard over and over again that in every corrupt transaction there is an accountant who either participate or is complacent.

He added that debates at the congress had focused on the lack of accountants in the public sector. However he noted that the $50bn illicit financial flows leaving Africa every year originate in the private sector.

He argued that there is a need for more accountants in the private sector as much as in the public sector and that African accountants need a change in mentality.

"We’ve heard at this congress accountants saying Professional Accountancy Organisation need to be strengthened to offer protection to wishelblowers," he continued. "But when you declare a war there is not protection: Are you prepared to declare a war to reclaim your dignity? Are you passionate enough about your motherland?"

Those who have stolen the funds and keep them safely in Europe will not give it back, he made the case passionatly, and therefore there is a need to put up a fight on corruption.

"We might put our lives at risk by doing so but if we don’t in 50 years from now Africa will still be rising, but when will Africa finally have risen?" he concluded. "Why don’t we take this war to the criminals?"

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