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The School recognises the importance of ongoing research to maintaining its leadership position in the industry. Research contributes to new knowledge and the application of existing knowledge to new circumstances – it strengthens our teaching and ensures that our students have access to the latest and most relevant thinking in the field of accountancy. 

Integrated thinking and the COVID-19 pandemic

The School has prepared a technical report outlining areas which those charged with governance should be considering in the context of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. These include:

  • Business continuity
  • Reassessments of strategy
  • Balancing flexibility with monitoring and control
  • Managing risks and opportunities
  • Governing financial metrics 
  • Ensuring active stakeholder engagement

This report is complemented by a more detailed analysis of the financial reporting implications of COVID-19 with a specific focus on companies that are required to report financial results to the JSE or other stakeholders. Examples include the impairment of non-financial assets, modifications to contracts with customers, and amendments to share-based payment arrangements.

A short review of assurance developments and the tax relief available to companies is also provided. The report concludes with an explanation of integrated thinking. The case for a more holistic approach to business management is made followed by practical recommendations on how to promote an integrated thinking mindset.

Accounting governance and integrated thinking in the context of COVID-19

Corporate governance in South Africa

Most of the prior corporate governance research is based in an Anglo-Saxon setting with the result that we know very little about the history, application and consequences of corporate governance (or the lack thereof) in Africa. This is true even for South Africa despite its status as one of the largest and most developed capital markets in Africa. 

There has been some research on the political and institutional forces which have contributed to the development of codes on corporate governance in South Africa. The evolution of African governance has also been touched on. Research by Harvey Pamburai, Chamisa and Ntim et al. confirms that the relationship between good governance and firm value documented by the international literature holds in a South African setting. The link between corporate governance and corporate social responsibility has also been considered, although to a lesser extent. 

This project complements the prior South African-specific research. It provides a detailed account of the history of corporate governance in South Africa, which draws on both the academic literature and South Africa’s codes of best practice.

At the same time, it provides the first accounts of corporate governance in South Africa over an extended period (1994-2018) and an analysis of the similarities and differences in King Codes. This includes a review of some of the most recent trends in South African corporate governance, a review of the internal and external factors which influence governance practices and preliminary evidence of the benefits of good governance.

  • Findings from this ongoing project have been published in a full-length book forming part of the De Gruyter Studies in Corporate Governance. The book is available here.
  • A related publication, Assurance, Risk and Governance deals with the audit of financial statements
Integrated reporting and integrated thinking

The International Integrated Reporting Council (IIRC) defines an integrated report as:

A concise communication about how an organization’s strategy, governance, performance and prospects, in the context of its external environment, lead to the creation of value over the short-, medium- and long-term.

Per the IIRC, the objectives of integrated reporting are to:

  • Improve the quality of information available to providers of financial capital to enable a more efficient and productive allocation of capital
  • Promote a more cohesive and efficient approach to corporate reporting that draws on different reporting strands and communicates the full range of factors that materially affect the ability of an organization to create value over time
  • Enhance accountability and stewardship for the broad base of capitals (financial, manufactured, intellectual, human, social and relationship, and natural) and promote understanding of their interdependencies
  • Support integrated thinking, decision-making and actions that focus on the creation of value over the short-, medium-, and long-term.

Aspects of financial reporting dealt with in this research 

  • Defining and measuring changes in integrated report quality
  • Practical guidance on preparing stakeholder-centric reports
  • The relevance of integrated thinking for long-term value creation and the interconnection between integrated thinking and reporting
  • Emerging forms of assurance (including combined assurance) to support integrated thinking and reporting
  • Different theoretical perspectives on integrated reporting

The School has contributed significantly to two books on integrated reporting: 

Two practitioner-focused reports dealing with integrated thinking and reporting have been prepared. These can be downloaded free of charge below.

Research contacts:

Warren Maroun, Yvette Lange and Dannielle Cerbone

Extinction Accounting

South Africa is one of the most biologically diverse regions on earth. It includes nine terrestrial biomes which are home to millions of species. The country boasts several pristine wilderness areas where large numbers of birds, reptiles and mammals (including the iconic Big 5) live with little or no human intervention. Examples include the world-famous Kruger National Park (in the north-east), Addo Elephant Park (in the south-west) and Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park (in the north-west). Nevertheless, South Africa’s flora and fauna are under threat due to expanding human populations, incorrect management of natural resources and the effects of climate change.

This research project complements the work being done on integrated thinking and reporting. It includes the following:

  • Making a clear business case for protecting biodiversity and working to prevent the loss of species
  • An examination of what South African companies are reporting on biodiversity
  • Providing practical guidance on how companies can apply integrated thinking and reporting to contribute to positive change
  • Exploring how corporate governance systems and the role played by institutional investors can be used to drive environmental responsibility

This project forms part of an international collaboration coordinated by Professor Jill Atkins, a Chair in Financial Management at the Sheffield University Management School and a visiting professor at the University of the Witwatersrand’s School of Accountancy.

The School has contributed significantly to the following publications: 

Research contacts:

Jill Atkins and Warren Maroun

Financial Reporting

International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) and International Financial Reporting Standards for Small- and Medium-sized Entities (IFRS for SMEs) are used by South African companies to prepare financial statements.

This ongoing research project deals with:

  • The challenges encountered when preparing financial statements
  • The history and development of accounting standards
  • The practical implementation of IFRS and IFRS for SME by the private sector
  • The accounting for and governance of South African stokvels

Short Webinars dealing with Stokvels amid COVID-19 and personal finance and budgeting are available here

Research contact:

Wayne van Zijl

Accounting Education

The School has been actively involved in a long-term project investigating cultural variables that influence students’ academic performance. The research project was initiated by one of South Africa’s accounting bodies which were unable to determine the reasons for differences in the pass rates between black and non-black students in professional examinations.

The research project explores possible drivers of academic performance including:

  • Results for English and Mathematics at the secondary level
  • Home languages
  • Socio-cultural contexts 
  • Behavioural and psychological factors/traits

The research was prompted by the call for more ‘African’ research problems to be investigated and the criticism that institutions of higher learning remain too ‘western-focused’.

Prof Elmarie Papageorgiou is an Associate Professor in the School of Accountancy and former President of the Southern African Accounting Association. She publishes in National and International journals and presented at numerous local and international conferences. Her research interest is mainly Accounting Education.

Please follow the links for her papers on Accounting Education:

Accounting students' profile versus academic performance: A five-year analysis

E Papageorgiou - South African Journal of Higher Education, 2017 -
The purpose of the study was to explore first-year accounting students’ profile (N= 3075) in
terms of academic performance over a period of five years (2010‒2014) at a South African …

Research contacts:

Prof Elmarie Papageorgiou, Prof Andres Merino, Michele Aucock, Lanelle Willmott and Lelys Madock