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January 31, 2022
Professionalisation of Public Sector Accountants in Africa

Guest article by the Pan African Federation of Accountants

The African Union (AU) public service charter provides that public service agents should demonstrate professionalism, transparency and impartiality in the performance of their duties. Members of the Pan African Federation of Accountants (PAFA) promote compliance with the IESBA International code of ethics for professional accountants to realise professionalism through compliance with international standards in accounting, auditing and ethics.

A sufficient number of public sector accountancy professionals, who are part of a recognised professional accountancy organisation, is essential to good governance, transparency and accountability.

The African Professionalisation Initiative (API) was established to strengthen the capacity of accountants and auditors in the African public sector. The API is a partnership between the accountancy profession (represented by PAFA), accountants general or their equivalent (currently being represented by the East and Southern African Association of Accountants (ESAAG) and in the near future the Association of African Accountants General (AAAG)), and supreme audit institutions or courts of auditors (represented by the English (AFROSAI-E) and French (CREFIAF) language sub-groups of the African Organisation of Supreme Audit Institutions (AFROSAI)).

The African Union’s Agenda 2063 calls for an Africa of good governance, democracy, respect for human rights, justice and the rule of law. Similarly, the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals call for peace, justice and strong institutions. Good governance, transparency and accountability in the public sector are key components of any country’s efforts to achieve these goals. And a sufficient number of public sector accountancy professionals, who are part of a recognised professional accountancy organisation, is essential to good governance, transparency and accountability.

The African public sector experiences a severe shortage of accountancy professionals. Furthermore, accountancy professionals who work in government typically have been exposed only to private sector theory during their Initial Professional Development (IPD) and therefore often lack an understanding of public sector challenges and expectations relating to their positions. Without sufficient accountancy professionals, countries in Africa are vulnerable to exploitation and corruption.

In the section below, API staff have provided responses to commonly asked questions about the public sector accountants professionalization program.

Why is API needed?

To achieve an African public sector capacitated with competent, ethical and influential professionals who support accountability, transparency and good financial governance.

How will this vision be realised?

By growing the capacity of accountancy professionals in the African public sector for enhanced service delivery.

Why the API model/approach?

Unlike the traditional learning approaches, the online based self-paced accelerated learning approach will speed the process of realizing a critical mass of required competent public sector accountancy professionals.

Who is eligible for API?

Government accounting and finance staff (incumbents); accountancy professionals (seeking specialization in PS); and students (pursuing a career in accountancy).

Can API be run as CPD (continuing professional development)?

Yes, this is possible and PAOs are encouraged to structure it as such.

What’s the role of PAOs or IIAs?

As specialists in accountancy and audit, to monitor progress; support and facilitate in addressing challenges those who have enrolled may face; facilitate successful completion of those enrolled; encourage their members working in government, other members and students to enroll with API; admit those qualified as professional members.

What’s the role of SAIs, Accountants General and Public Service Commissions?

They absorb and utilize services of API graduates, enroll their staff and hire API qualified graduates from PAOs and IIAs and recognize the API qualification in the government grading and remuneration structure.

What’s the role of donors?

Support Good Financial Governance through sustainable funding for GFG programs like API.

What’s the cost of enrolling?

Heavily subsidized for each learner to ensure greater access in a challenging environment where governments have faced resource constraints due to Covid-19 impacts.

Does this make one a CA / CPA, etc.?

Prior learning and experience + API accelerated learning = qualification. Each PAO is to develop recognition criteria and admit those qualified into membership and regulate them. Some PAOs have already made such arrangements.

How will on-boarding be done and will I get a certificate?

The online platform is designed to onboard as many learners as possible. Yes, those qualified will get a certificate of completion.

How will the qualification be recognized?

The in-country partners – PAFA (PAO(s)), AFROSAI-E (SAIs) and ESAAG (Accountants General) – will enlist government support for recognition of the qualification by a) the PAO, b) the national qualification authorities, and c) the public service commission, for positioning those with the qualification in the government grading scales.

Who is responsible for API success?

The stakeholders concerned – governments, donors, the African Union, PAOs, SAIs, Accountants General, AFROPAC, AAPSComs and related institutions, leaders and citizens.

For more information on the API or to get in touch with the API Secretariat, contact Reuben Orwaru at ReubenO@pafa.org.za (cc neo@afrosai‑e.org.za) and visit the API website.

About the Pan African Federation of Accountants (PAFA)

PAFA is the continental body representing professional accountants in Africa. Its mission is to accelerate and strengthen the voice and capacity of the accountancy profession to work in the public interest, facilitate trade and improve the benefits and quality of services to African citizens.

Established in May 2011 as a non-profit organisation, PAFA has 56 Professional Accountancy Organisations (PAOs) from 45 countries.

PAFA is recognised by IFAC as the only Regional Organisation in Africa. Its mandate is based on the premise that national PAOs have the capacity to promote good financial management practices, accountability, transparency and good governance in all public and private entities. PAFA therefore believes that building institutional capacity will accelerate economic growth and poverty reduction in Africa.