Three University of Pretoria (UP) alumni recently won awards at the 2021 SAIPA Top Achievers Awards Competition, which aims to promote sterling research in Accounting and Taxation at PhD or master’s level. Dr Pieter Conradie, Gideon Swanepoel and Michael Graskie were awarded at a virtual awards ceremony held on 2 November 2021.
Dr Pieter Conradie
Dr Conradie, a recent graduate in the Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences and Programme Lead for Leadership in Accountability at the Albert Luthuli Leadership Institute, won in the PhD in Accounting Sciences category of the SAIPA Top Achievers Awards Competition for his PhD research on the rational purpose requirement in non-financial assurance.
Dr Conradie’s research investigated the potential emancipatory impact of the Rational Purpose Requirement (RPR) on assurance practices in South Africa. The RPR seeks to preclude the acceptance of an assurance engagement where the information needs of the intended users will not be met.
As part of his investigation, key stakeholders in the South African sustainability assurance industry gave inputs on the RPR in a quest to determine how it would operate in South Africa. The study found that, even though antagonistic groups put forward morally and intellectually superior arguments, their inability to manufacture popular support undermines their arguments, and ultimately their ability to advance the emancipatory potential of the RPR.
His study also raises an important question around the role of the assurance standard-setter and regulator, because the findings suggest that the RPR is likely to fail in the voluntary environment and is therefore incapable of meeting the public interest, given its own flawed design.
Speaking on his PhD journey, Dr Conradie said it had been a gruelling process, but its culmination was rewarding.
“The amount of intrigue on the PhD journey is difficult to describe. When I look at my nicely bound thesis document, it looks like such an elegant and simple document. However, it does not reflect the messiness, self-doubt and suffering that went into creating that document.”
He expressed gratitude towards the Department of Accounting staff for their support during his PhD. “I have nothing but kind words to say to them after it all came to pass,” he said.
The Top Achievers Award in the Masters of Commerce in Accounting Sciences category was awarded to Swanepoel for his dissertation on the value relevance of revenue. He conducted a pre-and post-IFRS 15 industry analysis.
Swanepoel’s research investigated the value relevance of revenue in industries such as technology, telecommunications and healthcare, which were expected to be the most affected by the adoption of the International Financial Reporting Standard (IFRS 15), in comparison to other industries.
The research findings suggested that before the adoption of IFRS 15, the value relevance of revenue was lower in industries expected to be more affected by IFRS 15 adoption, relative to other industries. In the post-IFRS 15 adoption period, the value relevance of revenue was not significantly different in the industries that were expected to be most affected by IFRS 15 adoption, relative to other industries. The evidence from Swanepoel’s research suggests that IFRS 15 is effective in improving the information content of revenue in industries expected to be most affected by its application.
Swanepoel said he was ecstatic to learn that his research was recognised as one of the best.
“It was a huge honour to receive the award. I wasn't aware that my master’s dissertation was chosen as the best MCom (Accounting Science) dissertation at the University of Pretoria, so when I was informed that it was chosen as the best accounting master’s dissertation in South Africa, I was very surprised and excited! It is great to see that my hard work was rewarded, especially in such a fashion,” he said.
Although his research was challenging, he drew motivation from Nelson Mandela’s words: “It always seems impossible until it's done,” said Swanepoel.
Head of the Department of Accounting Professor Madeleine Stiglingh congratulated the graduates, stating that the awards demonstrate research excellence in the Department.
“The awards highlight the quality and potential impact of the research that our postgraduate students undertake. These awards also align with the fact that the University of Pretoria is the national and African leader as per the 2021 QS World University Subject Rankings, where Accounting and Finance at the University of Pretoria are ranked among the top 1% universities in the world,” Prof Stiglingh said.
Graskie, another UP Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences graduate, was awarded the SAIPA Top Achievers Award in the Master of Commerce Taxation category. For his master’s dissertation, he did a comparative study of the complexity of trust tax legislation in selected southern African development community countries.
He said he is proud to be honoured by SAIPA. Currently a Senior Specialist at the South African Revenue Service, Graskie hopes the award will assist him in his future academic plans.
“As I intend on pursing a PhD on trusts, this award may path the way for my organisation to provide me with the necessary time and resources to proceed with the study,” he said.
“My master’s provided me with an insight into the tax treatment by other tax jurisdictions, that may in future assist me with further studies and/or work-related engagements. It also provides information in a summarised format, that may assist future studies in this area,” he added.
For more information on the postgraduate programmes in the Department of Accounting, visit: www.up.ac.za/-accounting and for information on postgraduate programmes in the Department of Taxation, click here.
*This article has been updated