Finance deputy minister Natangwe Ithete yesterday called on accountants to serve as the gatekeepers and whistleblowers in exposing corrupt practices they come across.
Ithete posed the challenge while opening the 27th East and Southern African Association of Accountant Generals (ESAAG) annual international conference at Swakopmund.
This year's international conference, which ends this Friday, is being held under the theme, 'Rethinking Public Financial Management Reforms to Accelerate Economic Growth', with topics such as instilling a culture of accountability through consequence management, corporate governance and accountability.
The ESAAG was founded in 1995, and now has about 13 countries as members. It was formed to establish cooperation between countries in the region in the area of government accounting, to provide a forum for participants to review and discuss comparative experiences, as well as to encourage the development of government accounting personnel and trainers.
The deputy minister said it was saddening to see young people lose jobs and damage their careers because of the immoral practices they have committed in the execution of their duties that deal with public funds.
"Professional accountants are a part of governance architecture that tackles exploitation of our limited resources. Therefore, you should always serve as the gatekeepers and whistleblowers to expose fraudulent practices that you come across," he said.
Ithete said he would like to see accountants on a daily basis uphold professional ethics, lamenting that in some, if not many cases, accountants become suspects of unethical behaviour.
The minister said the conference is timely, given that it is taking place at the time when the world economic and financial crisis had generated a decrease in government revenues, leaving public accountants with a huge challenge of balancing spending needs in the public sector.
He said should reforms be made on public finance management, they would help governments become "more accountable and bring about economic growth to provide the much-needed resources to critical areas and services".
"It is a well-known fact that accounting plays an essential role in economic development and high-quality corporate reporting is key to improving transparency, facilitating the mobilisation of domestic and international investment, creating a sound investment environment and fostering investor confidence," he said.
If that is achieved, Ithete said, it stands to promote financial stability, and "therefore, we should continue to invest in the accounting profession".
It is not the first time the finance top brass have come out condemning bad behaviour around public finance and corruption. Finance minister Calle Schlettwein in 2018 said anti-corruption institutions should be allowed free and objective rein to expose and investigate instances of alleged corruption without fear, favour or interference.
Schlettwein was awarded the Transparency Excellence Award by the international advisory board of the 'African Leadership Magazine' that year.