Yunus Carrim. Picture:TREVOR SAMSON
Yunus Carrim. Picture:TREVOR SAMSON

Proposed amendments to the Auditing Profession Act to enhance the powers of the Independent Regulatory Board for Auditors (Irba) will not be dealt with by the current parliament.

The authorities of the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces have decided not to allow the amendments to the act — which are contained in the Financial Matters Amendment Bill — to proceed due to a lack of time before parliament closes down at the end of the month.

This means these amendments will lapse and will have to be resubmitted by the Treasury to the next parliament, which takes office after the elections in May.

The amendments to the Auditing Profession Act include controversial provisions allowing for search, seizure and subpoena by Irba. Auditing firms have described these measures as “extreme”, “unconstitutional” and an illegitimate invasion of privacy.

The amendments would allow Irba’s investigating committee to enter premises with prior consent, but without any consent if there was a warrant for the purposes of conducting a search. Irba argues that it needs these powers to be able to complete investigations as quickly as possible while following due process.

The proposed amendments would also allow an Irba investigating committee to require, or subpoena, the person investigated — or any other person with specific knowledge of the matter under investigation — to produce documents. The committee would be empowered to get a court order to enforce compliance.

Chair of parliament’s finance committee Yunus Carrim said the committee “deeply regrets that, because the amendments to the Auditing Professions Act came so late and the fifth term of parliament ends so soon, there is not enough time to finalise the legislative amendments”. 

"Several auditing firms have faced accusations of wrongdoing, leading to the loss of billions of rands. The committee believes that this wrongdoing should be dealt with severely. In pursuit of this, Irba needs far stronger powers and the committee fully supports this,” Carrim said. 

“The finance minister is urged to bring these amendments to the next parliament as soon as possible after it is convened. We recommend, with due respect, that the incoming committee process these amendments expeditiously.”