The tidal wave of corruption, which has swept through South Africa, has been subject to public scrutiny and may potentially result in criminal prosecution of those responsible.

Whichever way this genie which has been released will fly, it should result in multiple consequences, in the months and years to come, both for the individual perpetrators, as well as for the companies employing them.

Responsibility to the Public?

The question we need to ask though, is whether professional bodies are showing that they appreciate and understand and are willing to act on their obligations to the public?

In South Africa, professional bodies represent the collective of individual members, not the corporates in any given sector.

Their “public compact”, when designating their members as professionals and when faced with an obvious need to investigate and prosecute those members, must be to protect civil society, sometimes against those individual who are their very members and who have been awarded Professional Designations.

Where a situation arises, due to the ineffectiveness of professional bodies to self-regulate amongst their designated members, an onus is placed on those structures to self-correct. Self-governance and sectoral policing should not be left to associations of organised employers where specialised professional bodies exist which are mandated with enforcing proper ethical conduct?

Will only companies be continuously called to account for the activities of their employees? Will only Employer Associations actively take steps to redress problems which are caused by individuals or will professional bodies rise to the occasion and accept collective responsibility for their accountable wards?  Collectively, employees, on the one hand fight for the right to be treated as “professionals” while in the face of moral pressure, simply do not appear to have the integrity or political will to take action against each other, when the need presents itself. This seems to be out of an unwritten sense of mutual loyalty to one-another rather than a righteous sense of public responsibility?


Many of those who are being found out to have committed corrupt and insidious acts have been designated as professional practitioners by acknowledged and seemingly respected professional bodies. While they may now be falling on their swords, often as scapegoats for the hidden and real culprits in the various emerging corruption scandals, they still have much to answer for. That culpability will not disappear simply because they choose to resign.

There is a need, or at least a public requirement, to disclose in full and frank remorse, but are they are not being called, at least publicly and transparently, to make such an account, by their respective professional bodies.

There are those who would point to these crest-fallen anti-heroes, and use them as examples of the reason for being highly critical of professional bodies. Furthermore, calling for the abandonment of professional recognition, CPD and self-regulation of an industries, by itself, of itself and for itself. The criticism is the range of freedom to self-regulate which has not evidenced a sense of public accountability or responsibility justifying such freedom. The reasoning is basically to argue that it is these very professional bodies which empowered these would-be professionals to begin with, but that in the light of damning evidence, they then fail to take action against their charges. It seems that this problem is not isolated to professional bodies in South Africa.


Bell Pottinger is an …

The full article is reserved for our subscribers!

Read this article by Dr. Ivor Blumenthal, CEO ArkKonsult as well as a host of other topical management articles written by professionals, consultants and academics in the October/November 2017 edition of BusinessBrief.

VIEW our subscription options


Questions or problems? | +27 (0) 11 788 0880 |




Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

For security, use of Google's reCAPTCHA service is required which is subject to the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.

I agree to these terms.