Julius Mojapelo is man on a mission

They are supposed to blow the whistle. Yet, either because they turn a blind eye or are threatened, a lot of dodgy accounting and dealing has been slipping through in South Africa. It's a situation that Julius Mojapelo, the new chief executive of the Institute of Internal Auditors SA, is well aware of. The profession of internal auditing deserves more if it is to do more in the fight against corruption and maladministration, he says. Moreover, companies and government departments need to step up on technology and embrace new ideas for financial system overhauls if the fear of intimidation faced...
They are supposed to blow the whistle. Yet, either because they turn a blind eye or are threatened, a lot of dodgy accounting and dealing has been slipping through in South Africa.

It's a situation that Julius Mojapelo, the new chief executive of the Institute of Internal Auditors SA, is well aware of. The profession of internal auditing deserves more if it is to do more in the fight against corruption and maladministration, he says.

Moreover, companies and government departments need to step up on technology and embrace new ideas for financial system overhauls if the fear of intimidation faced by internal auditors is to come to an end.

Over the past decade, investigations into procurement processes in government have highlighted a crisis of accountability, resulting in the mass failure of important government services, especially at municipal level. It is high time for sweeping changes in the profession, says Mojapelo, who also serves as the acting executive for members and global alliances at the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (Saica).

Government departments can no longer afford to live in the dark ages in terms of financial management systems and the profession needs to move away from simply conducting autopsies on failed systems. It is time to make systems work for internal auditors and to standardise the qualifiers for those who practice the trade.

"I think one of the biggest challenges … is the lack of professionalisation in that you still have a big part of our industry or profession that is not really professionalised per say. With internal auditing as a practice, anyone can do it as it is a big market. There isn't a uniform set of standards as to who can and cannot be an internal auditor," explains Mojapelo.

Currently, the profession is populated by graduates of an array of academic disciplines, although universities do offer specific qualifications in internal auditing. This has posed a challenge for the auditors' institute in its bid to have the profession standardised so it is easier to regulate and advocate for its proponents.

Along with a professional overhaul, it is important to create an environment where its power can bloom. In 2016 the global auditors' institute noted that, despite the occasional criticism of an internal audit, the profession continued to ride a wave of enhanced stature and growth.

Over a decade, the profession saw transformation of reporting relationships – often at the behest of regulators, who recognised that independence was vital for its functions.

In 2016, almost half of the auditors worldwide said they reported administratively to their chief executives, and 70% reported functionally to either an audit committee or the full board of their organisations. Stature is being enhanced, hand-inhand with growth in the profession.

"In order to harness the full power of internal auditing, we need to create the right environment," says Mojapelo. "Our members live in fear of intimidation and most of the time it is because we are always fighting a single problem and not a system. Internal auditors have to move from finding specific issues in a system … when the issue is a failed system.

"When we go into specific issues, that is where we face intimidation, but when we work on changing the system so there is no room for error, then we will have moved from being a reactionary system to a preventative one."

Mojapelo is an expert in public finance management, reporting, assurance, governance, human resources and business development. A graduate of the University of the Western Cape, he is a chartered accountant and member of the Institute of Internal Auditors SA. He joined Saica in 2015 and served as a senior executive responsible for the public sector. This is where he cut his teeth, implementing and driving projects in government departments and municipalities, as well as schools and tertiary institutions.

Institute of Internal Auditors SA chair James Gourrah said he and the board were impressed by Mojapelo's energy and intrinsic understanding of the internal audit sector, as well as his knowledge of member-led organisations such as this.

"In addition, we live in uncertain times, with Covid-19 changing how we all function as individuals, organisations and as a society. And when you throw into the mix SA's recent crises surrounding maladministration and corporate malfeasance, we feel he is the right person to lead the Institute of Internal Auditors SA and its members into the future."

Mojapelo is also chair of the Public Sector Audit Committee Forum and sits on the Interim Oversight Board of the African Professionalisation Initiative. He is social activist with a focus on education, working with several charities and nonprofit organisations to increase access to education in disadvantaged communities.

With Saica, he helps run an initiative to provide tuition in township schools and has developed a school finance management system, currently being reviewed by authorities with a view to it becoming standardised. He believes in a future where being educated and flourishing is not an exception in SA, but a norm.

"I am ready to roll up my sleeves and lead our members and this fine organisation into what is clearly an uncertain future," he says of his new appointment.

simnikiweh@citizen.co.za

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