Repositioning The Accounting Technician
Download Repositioning The Accounting Technician...
Repositioning The Accounting Technician Presentation by The Executive Secretary of the Association of Accountancy Bodies of West Africa (ABWA); Margaret Unubun (FCA) At the 2nd Africa Congress of Accountants ( ACOA ) Accra – Ghana, 15th May,2013.
Introduction • The increasing complexity of the professional accountants roles in any given economy, the impact of the rapidly changing information technology, the effects of structural changes in organisations, the expectations of clients and other stakeholders, in practice, business and in the public sector and the need to develop the Accountancy Profession, all aggregate to justify meaningful and useful deliverables.
• Professional accountants have therefore become more involved with greater challenging, competitive and daunting tasks of giving strategic directions to organizations and can no longer devote valuable time to what may be termed rudimentary operational activities which could be adequately handled by middle cadre accounting personnel.
• The call today, for sustainable economic development in developed and emerging economies depends on strong financial infrastructure encapsulating standards, regulation and human capacity. Also it is common knowledge that the number of highly qualified Professional accountants is abysmally low, particularly in our continent.
• It was in recognition of this fact, that some years ago, the World Bank nursed the idea of having five thousand accountants in Africa within a short time. That was also one of the reasons that fuelled the setting up of PAFA. It is truly encouraging that PAFA has yet again picked on the topic relating to this group, the accounting technician which in my opinion is an integral part of the accountancy profession.
History • In the UK, Accounting Technician’ Scheme is about 33years old, when four UK Accountancy bodies facilitated the formation of the Association of Accounting Technicians ( AAT). A few years later ACCA formed the Certified Accounting Technician ( CAT )
• AAT with over 120,000 members is recognized as a professional qualification by the Department of Trade and Industry, UK, expectedly former British Commonwealth countries, USA and its members are in over 90 countries worldwide. • On the other hand, CAT is a professional academic qualification within the ACCA Structure. • Both AAT and CAT work together with a common goal of furthering the accountancy profession.
• In South Africa, there is The Association of Accounting Technicians South Africa AAT(SA), which is a finance and accountancy professional body , that offers practical ,internationally recognized qualifications. It is dedicated to the education , development, regulation and support of finance and accounting staff and includes local government accounting qualifications.
• Under the scheme you study while you work and the qualification is work- based. This is a relatively young initiative by a partnership arrangement between the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants ( SAICA ) and the Association of Accounting Technicians ( AAT )
• In West Africa, two renowned and respected pioneer professional accountancy organisations, the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria ( ICAN ) and the Institute of Chartered Accountants Ghana, as far back as 24 and 22years ago, respectively saw the need for the accounting technician in the financial reporting chain and national development process in their countries.
• The thrust then was to upgrade the skills and competences of the lower grade workers in accounting offices, who needed higher skills to carry out their work more competently , enhance their career potential, while giving them status.
• Both schemes were independently run and received a lot of enthusiasm with good patronage. However, in 1997 the ABWA Council, thought it expedient to have the scheme run under ABWA so that all ABWA member bodies and thereby their national economies could benefit there from. The scheme became Accounting Technicians Scheme West Africa (ATSWA) a major project in the sub region to provide a regionally recognised and accepted professional qualification to support the Professional Accountants within the region.
• Council set up a Harmonization Committee to work out the modalities for the actualization of the project. It is worthy of note that once the modalities were in place, that committee metamorphosed into the Implementation Committee as well.
The ATSWA Syllabus was designed to strengthen the education and training requirements to produce world class accounting technicians:
• Who play supporting role to the professional accountants • With primary duty to maintain accounting systems designed by chartered accountants • Who may sometimes work independently with little or no supervision • Who can adequately meet the needs of public sector including local government, industry, commerce and broad based audit and related practice • And who are well equipped with requisite skills and knowledge to progress to professional examination level....
Structure of the Syllabus The Syllabus has a three part structure with twelve subjects as listed:
PART 1 • • • •
Basic Accounting Processes and Systems Economics Business Law Communication Skills
PART 2 • • • •
Principles and Practice of Financial Accounting Public Sector Accounting Quantitative Analysis Information Technology
PART 3 • • • •
Principles of Auditing Cost Accounting Preparing Tax Computations and Returns Management.
• The ATSWA Syllabus is revised every four years and it had been strategically drawn up to align with those of Accounting Technicians in the UK,USA and Canada to ease the process of conversion of students from one scheme to the other if they so desired and also facilitate reciprocity, when such option becomes necessary since graduates compare favourably globally.
• It is a known fact that donor agencies are interested in this scheme. In West Africa for instance, The World Bank was instrumental to the production of Study Packs for Students and having them translated to French. • USAID was committed to assisting with the hiring of instructors, all for the benefit of the students of the scheme.
Challenges • The scheme has not had silver bullets and neither had there been quick fixes. • The Legislative frame work and back up of each country poses a major challenge, which has contributed to the francophone members’ inability to participate in the scheme, though some of these institutions have adopted the syllabus into their academic curriculum • National specifics must be recognized and accepted and there is no one size fit all • There is a dire need for continued adequate and effective awareness programmes • Assisting and preparing students for the examinations • Preference in some quarters for university degrees.
Beneficiaries • Entire economy from increased productivity of a well – trained, skilled and discipline work – force. • The individual accounting technician recognized and with professional respect • The organization she works for • Those organizations that lack the financial muscle to engage professional accountants including some NGOs, Local Governments, SMEs, Charities etc
• Generally, the accounting technician’s function should be to add value in areas including transaction processing, cash management & budgeting, credit control, internal control, preparation of taxation returns, reconciliation statements etc. It is important to note that the list is not exhaustive and one could perhaps assert that the demarcation line between professional accountants and accounting technicians is not as thick as it used to be.
• As a matter of fact that distinctive line varies between jurisdictions and changes on account of globalization, regional integration and cooperation, developments in information and communication technology and as a reaction to economic crisis.
• What is relevant is that they are properly and adequately trained, qualified and regulated within a professional body so as to ensure that financial and performance reporting have strong and tested foundations which portend financially healthy organisations that create viable and successful economies.
• It is important to note that many professional accountancy bodies are promoting the development of accounting technicians albeit in different models in different countries. Some of them are stand alone professional bodies for example, the Hong Kong Institute of Accredited Accounting Technicians and Accounting Technicians Ireland to mention a few. Some have membership status within Professional bodies such as the Botswana Institute of Chartered Accountants and the New Zealand Institute of Chartered Accountants
• Repositioning the accounting technician, is justifiable since “No condition is perfect” and neither should it remain permanent. • It is interesting to note that there are evidences to show that Technicians are recording very good passes in Professional exams.
Consequently, I will like us to look at these from 2 perspectives:
Firstly, • All PAOs without accounting technician scheme should delay no more. Get on the drawing board and start something or at least seek advise from those running the scheme.
Secondly, • Those with the scheme should not rest on their oars. There is yet so much to do. Accountancy and finance work has never been more varied, more interesting, more challenging and more competitive. Support and promote the accounting technicians in your jurisdiction. • Obtain recognition for them with governments and have them put on proper pay scale, encourage them, where interested, to progress to professional level and also secure direct entry to universities for degree programmes. • Give them some membership status and make them belong and enhance their relevance.
Caveat: • Understand the political terrain in your jurisdiction • CPD is a must for the accounting technician • They cannot act as external auditors and cannot sign financial statements.
PLEASE VISIT RELEVANT WEBSITES FOR MORE DETAILS.