BICA strategy seeks higher ground for accountants
by Kali Muluzi
Botswana’s accountancy profession is moving into higher gear in its bid to clean itself up, embrace a higher level of professionalism, and rid itself of some of its past troubles.
The effort, led by the Botswana Institute of Chartered Accountants (BICA), under the watch of out-going Chief Executive, Duncan Majinda, has seen BICA move to try and restore confidence among its stakeholders by unveiling a strategy for 2013-2016.
As in other countries, accountancy here has been sullied by shady, fly-by-night accountants operating outside the glare of the BICA.
But in the last two years, efforts to shore up the professionalism of accountancy have been ticking up. BICA has implemented a turnaround supported by the enactment of two key Acts to regulate the profession.
The Accountants Act of 2010 has come into effect, ensuring compliance of accountants to ethical practice. It slaps stiff penalties on people caught masquerading as accountants, with the aim of reducing the tally of phony unqualified accountants operating outside the reach of BICA.
The penalties include a fine of up to P500, 000 or imprisonment for up to 10 years, or both.
“A lot more people will not be practicing because of this law,” Majinda, told stakeholders at the unveiling of the strategy, a milestone for BICA.
In addition, the Financial Reporting Act came into effect in April 2011. It oversees all professional accountancy bodies, audit and assurance services, management and public sector accounting and internal audit.
In April 2011, BICA launched its own technical qualification, enrolling 47 students. By October 2012, the number had grown to 265, the majority sponsored by the Botswana government. The technical qualification will be done through BICA’s 45 authorised training employers in Gaborone, Francistown, Maun and other areas.
According to the organisation, the technical qualification will be supported by AAT. “Botswana is the second largest base for AAT in the world,” said Majinda
Similar institutions in Africa which already have a similar one running include Zambia’s Institute of Chartered Accountants (ZICA).
“Most institutions in Africa start with the accounting technician qualification,” he said. The new qualification, though localised, will borrow a lot from AAT, which has been a stepping stone and supply conduit for BICA programmes.
The local technician qualification, expected to further generate BICA revenues, improving its funding profile, will run through its accredited institutions, which include Damelin, Botho College, and Botswana Accountancy College.
Meanwhile, BICA says it aims to increase the number of professional accountants in Botswana to 1,455 by 2016. There are currently 55 BICA chartered accountants.
However, Majinda says challenges remain despite these positive pointers. At the moment, BICA only meets 20 percent of the economy’s accounting demands. Of that percentage, expatriates make up 80 percent.
BICA’s efforts to add a gloss to the accountancy profession will receive a fillip in 2013 as the Botswana Accountancy Oversight Authority (BAOA) takes off. Majinda, who is leaving BICA, has been appointed as the founding chief executive officer of this parastatal organisation.
BAOA will regulate the accountancy profession, providing oversight to accounting and auditing services. It will also promote the standard, quality and credibility of providing financial and non-financial information.
Its role will include standard setting, financial reporting monitoring, audit practice reviews, enforcement of compliance, and oversight over the education and training of accountants in Botswana. BAOA, established in terms of the Financial Reporting Act, is in the process of hiring key staff.
Botswana will become the fourth African country to have such a body, after South Africa, Mauritius and Egypt, showing just how slow the continent’s accountants have been in accepting such institutions.
“We have seen a resistance to oversight institutions in Africa,” Majinda said.