Female-headed millennial accounting firm set on rooting out the rot

Close to three-quarters of South Africans think corruption and shady business dealings are on the rise, local watchdog Corruption Watch reports — a figure that's made one Port Elizabeth accounting firm double down on its efforts to improve transparency in business and tax reporting.


Ncumisa Nodaka founded Ncumisa Chartered Accountants and Auditors four years ago, becoming the first accounting firm in the Eastern Cape to be 100% black owned, with six female and one male staff members all under the age of 33.

Importance of building honest business ledgers


The firm is the realisation of her passion to empower young black women, and to help other entrepreneurs understand the importance of building honest and forthright business ledgers. 


"Transparent accounting and tax practice are drivers of economic growth and transformation," Nodaka stresses.


Those who try to cheat the system — or do so without realising due to a lack of knowledge — inadvertently hurt themselves and others in the long run, she added.


The young entrepreneur's sentiments are echoed by 2019 reports by Transparency International, which highlight how corruption and white collar crime erodes economic growth and sabotages socio-economic reform. 


Nodaka points to South Africa's ranking of 70th out of 180 countries in Transparency International's 2019 Global Corruption Barometer for Africa to illustrate just how endemic corruption in South Africa is, adding that the accounting and auditing professions have been tarnished by scandals involving major firms. 

Duty to teach ethics and transparency


To restore public trust, Nodaka says it's the duty of accountants like her to uphold — and teach — ethics and transparency at a local level, no matter how big or small their client accounts. 


"An accountant pretty much knows you 'naked' — the most intimate details about your cash flow and finances," she explains.


"That's why we are committed to educating our clients and providing services that contribute to a more transparent local economy."

Return to Eastern Cape roots


Originally from Humansdorp in the Eastern Cape, Nodaka moved to the Western Cape and completed her degree in chartered accountancy at the University of Stellenbosch in 2010. 


During a stint at South African Revenue Services (SARS), Nodaka observed how many businesses struggled to navigate the system correctly. 


"I saw a lot of people don't understand how SARS works — why they need certain documents, when they need to submit them, when they need to make an appearance, and so forth," she recalls.


"It made me realise there was an opportunity to start my own accounting practice. I didn't know any other people of colour who had done that in my area — but there was a need." 


After gaining valuable financial and consulting experience at accounting and tax firms in Cape Town, Nodaka decided to return home in 2013 to contribute to economic transformation in the Eastern Cape, and be closer to her father, who'd been diagnosed with stage four cancer.

'People can see our vision'


She now believes it was one of the best moves she ever made, given the surprising response from businesses in Port Elizabeth.


"Almost all our clients right now are those who came to us through word of mouth; they're cheerleaders and want us to do well. We've been getting so much support from the fact that we're 100% black owned, 99% female and all under the age of 33. People can see our vision."


Nodaka is currently developing training videos to assist South African entrepreneurs at all stages of their careers.


"These videos will guide entrepreneurs through corporate governance, compliance, internal processes, legal documents, sustainable scaling, and the controls they should have within their business to mitigate risk."


The ambitious entrepreneur hopes to eventually become a "one-stop shop" for comprehensive business services, particularly for SMEs. 


"Start-up and micro business clients, especially, are the people who need the expertise of an accountant but can't always afford one or don't understand the value that we bring to their businesses," she explains. 


"And I'm passionate about small businesses because of the potential they have to create employment, create opportunities and deal with issues we're facing in society. I'm excited about what the future holds."

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