Date posted: 7/10/2020 5 min read

Difference makers of 2020: Saira Aziz CA

Saira Aziz CA is firming up governance and risk guidelines as she works amid Qatar’s shifting sands.

In Brief

  • Saira Aziz CA relocated from PwC in Sydney to Qatar in 2016.
  • She is now assistant manager with EY Qatar.
  • Aziz wants to demonstrate the value of good governance standards to both businesses and government entities in Qatar.

By Felicity McLean

When Saira Aziz CA relocated from Australia to Qatar in 2016, she expected to see her fair share of sand dunes. After all, Qatar is one of the driest places on the planet, with no permanent rivers or lakes.

What Aziz didn’t expect was that her role with PwC Qatar’s external audit team would have her seeing so much sand quite so soon.

“On my second day on the job I was driven out to the middle of the desert where I was assigned to an audit of Qatar’s largest steel producer in the Mesaieed Industrial Area,” she explains.

“Before that, I’d been working in Sydney’s CBD, drinking overpriced cappuccinos every day. Suddenly, I was in the middle of the desert, in a foreign country, and the only coffee available was Nescafé Gold instant.

“It was a shock to the system!” Aziz exclaims with a laugh from her home in Doha.

Saira Aziz CAPicture: Saira Aziz CA.

From external audit to assessing enterprise risk

It didn’t take long for Aziz to discover the benefits of living and working in the Middle East. For a start, the experience has shown her just how versatile and transferable her CA designation can be. It was after just 24 months with PwC Sydney that she travelled more than 12,000km across the globe to take up a position with PwC Qatar.

Since relocating, Aziz has successfully moved from external audit into consulting, and is now in a varied role as assistant manager for EY Qatar’s business consulting arm, working within enterprise risk.

“Today I’m working on an ERM [enterprise risk management] project where I’m helping a business establish a risk management framework; tomorrow I could be working on digital strategy. There are so many opportunities available to me.”

She has observed some significant differences in the way organisations operate on the Arabian Peninsula. While the majority prepares financial statements in accordance with IFRS, as mandated by the Qatar Financial Markets Authority, Aziz says legislation issued by the regulatory body is minimal.

The worth of good governance

“Compared to my experience of auditing clients in Australia, I noticed that governmental agencies and SMEs in Qatar do not have governance, risk and control frameworks, or they lack maturity.

“This meant we could not leverage process level and IT general controls, and we were performing fully substantive audits,” she says.

“It really got me thinking: How can we demonstrate the value of these [good governance practices] to organisations? What can I do to help smaller businesses and government entities to put these processes in place? I wanted to make real change.”

Aziz says Australian governance standards are commonly used in Qatar. “A prime example of this is my current engagement, where we’re helping a government entity put into place risk oversight across other entities… We come in and do a current state assessment, and then we’ll look at best practice: standards from the US, the UK, Europe and Australia.

“I feel really proud when we’re benchmarking against government entities in Australia. As a CA who’s from that region, I can do so much to help implement that here in Qatar.”

“I feel really proud when we’re benchmarking against government entities in Australia.”
Saira Aziz CA

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