ACOA opens with call for public sector accountancy boost

11 May 15

The third Africa Congress of Accountants opened in Mauritius today with a plea for better public sector accountancy, from training through to financial monitoring and reporting.

In his speech to the ACOA opening ceremony, Professor Mussa Assad, president of the Pan African Federation of Accountants, singled out the public sector as one of three sectors where accountancy in Africa needed to be stronger. The other two were small and medium-sized businesses and agriculture.

He said the public sector finance in Africa faced ‘quite a lot of challenges’, including the number of people employed in the sector and their skills and competencies. The depth of interaction between the accountancy profession and the public sector was also ‘quite weak’.

Assad said there were three areas where professional accountants could make a difference to the public sector. These included revenue mobilisation, where there was a significant role for accountants to play in assisting both national governments and local government.

They could also monitor and report on spending to help reduce waste and inefficiency. ‘Who is better to do that than professional accountants?’ he asked.

The third element was improved financial reporting, and Assad said there was a role for accountant generals' and auditor generals' offices to play here.

‘If we fulfil these three roles well we will be doing justice to our work as professionals in the public sector,’ he said.

The opening ceremony also heard from Olivia Kirtley, president of the International Federation of Accountants.

Kirtley highlighted the need for African countries to adopt International Public Sector Accounting Standards (IPSAS). Doing so would give public sector managers the complete and reliable information they need to manage resources and give citizens and stakeholders the information necessary to hold governments to account.

She also said the accounting profession had a crucial role to play in enhancing Africa’s growth, but she noted the weakness of the profession in Africa. Of the continent’s 56 countries, only 40% have professional accountancy organisations.

‘And for those that do, the accountancy profession still requires substantial strengthening,’ Kirtley added.

She said there was a need to rethink accountancy training and the sort of people who might be attracted to the career. Women in particular could play an important role.

‘Research shows all society benefits when women are fully empowered and engaged,’ the IFAC president said. ‘We’ve got a long way to go in this area.’

ACOA was officially opened by Charles Gaetan Xavier-Luc Duval, Mauritius’s deputy prime minister and former finance minister, who said it was time to look at the role of accountants and auditors in Africa, given the number of financial scandals across the continent. There were ‘huge challenges’ for accountants in developing countries, he said.

The deputy prime minister also set out Mauritius’s ambition to become a regional hub for trade, tertiary education and air transit, given its location midway between Africa and Asia.

‘Hopefully that [ambition] will come to fruition and if it does it will completely change the role of Mauritius in the region … We can be the centre of everything,’ Duval told ACOA delegates.

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