BICA to bolster public accountant skills, employment


The Pan African Federation of Accountants (PAFA) has selected the Botswana Institute of Chartered Accounts (BICA) to pilot its African Professionalisation Initiative (API) learning programme.

The programme is designed to offer accountants the skills they need to effectively enter and operate in the public accounting sector.

Identifying the shortage of qualified public accountants across Africa, PAFA consulted and partnered with state accountant-generals, professional accounting organisations and supreme audit institutions across Africa and formulated the API to bridge the gap in the most efficient manner possible.

The API seeks to solve two major points of concern; being the shortage of public accountants and the private sector bias of the accountancy education institutions in Africa.

The API accelerated learning programme features 15 modules and 55 total courses that take nine months to a year to complete that cater to people that wish to become accountants and people that are already accountants with no formal public sector accountancy experience. Evans Mulera, a representative of the API and PAFA, noted that the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC) has worked closely with PAFA to conduct situational analyses that found evidence of a shortage of qualified public accountants in not only Botswana but also Africa as a whole.

Mulera stated: “If you ask the Accountant-General of Botswana, you will find that there are people working in the Ministry of Finance [and Development Planning] and the area of public financial management who are not professionalised to work in public accounting”.

“They are not qualified in instances such as in how to use international public accounts standards for maintaining books for the government and then reporting during the year on public sector expenses, revenues, assets, liabilities, and how the government deals with budgeting and planning,” Mulera explained.

PAFA proposes that the shortage of qualified public accountants is the result of the serious bias in education systems which leans heavily on private accounting, neglecting essential information needed for a public accountant. This issue is compounded by the fact that when qualified accountants do make their way into the public sector, they tend to get poached by the private sector.

The shortage of skills in the public sector of accounting opens up an opportunity for unemployed accountants to quickly enter the public space without depriving the market of essential chartered accountants.

Director Technical and Public Sector Accounting of BICA Edmund Bayen noted that there is a huge opportunity for people to join the public accounting sector in Botswana and the API would offer them the advantage.

“Currently, two-thirds of all of BICA's members are employed in the government, but ironically, the vast majority of them are underqualified to be in the position that they’re in,” Bayen stated.

Bayen believes that placing qualified professionals in accounting positions in the government would lead to increased public service delivery times, lowered corruption, and more efficient use of government resources.

In the event Botswana hits a critical mass of accountants in the public sector, Mulera noted: “If Botswana can move quickly to approve the API accelerated learning programme then we can create qualified public accountants in Botswana that can service all of Africa.”

He concluded in assuring that the program seeks to give people the skills to add value to the entity they’re providing accountancy services for, identifying that many accountants can only perform double-entry; which in the rapidly automating environment of the modern era will lead to them being replaced by machines.

This means accountants from Botswana will be acutely future proof compared to their international peers, giving them an international competitive edge when applying for accountancy positions abroad.

The API accelerated learning program will only be available to registered BICA members, a passive strategy to cut down on the number of unregistered practising accountants in Botswana; membership with BICA starts from P1,500 annually.

Further details on the launch and availability of the API will be announced pending approval of the programme from the Botswana Qualifications Authority.

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