The Botswana Institute of Chartered Accountants represents a profession and a profession represents the product of:
- Skills acquired through accumulation of theoretical knowledge, training and education.
- Evaluation of the members competence, integrity, and guided by codes of conduct.
- Regulated by an institute or a professional body.
This is what the Botswana Institute of Chartered Accountants does:
- To put it simply, the nature and functions of the Botswana Institute of Chartered Accountants are encapsulated in its Mission statement.
- To be the foremost professional body in Botswana in terms of objectivity, integrity and competence and thereby promote the long-term interests of its members and the community at large and to uphold public confidence in the profession.
My answer to your first question has somewhat touched on this question but for the sake of further clarification, the Botswana Institute of Chartered Accountants’ role is that of regulation of the profession to ensure:
- High standards of professionalism.
- Enforce the Institute code of ethics. the Botswana Institute of Chartered Accountants has wholly adopted the International Federation of Accountants’ code of ethics.
- To protect the public interest by providing a high quality service and a service that the public can trust and have confidence in.
- To enhance the members CPD by providing CPD events which are relevant to the job requirements of its members.
- To provide benefits to its members which will make the Botswana Institute of Chartered Accountants’ membership beneficial and exclusive?
Membership of regional and international organisations gives the Institute not only prestige and recognition but also a wider external perspective of what the profession stands for. Just like in football where Botswana is a regional/continental member of CAF and the International member of FIFA, the Botswana Institute of Chartered Accountants is a member of ECSAFA and the International Federation of Accountants.
If left on their own, local professional bodies would be content with just complying with their local statutes which in most cases emphasise relevance and convenience to their local situation but not compliance with the high standards required of members of International organisations. Membership obligations required by International Organisations are rigid and have, in most cases, significantly influenced changes in legislation in member countries.
This is a very good but difficult question because over the years we have found it difficult to monitor all our members. I will try to answer your question by looking at different classes of members.
First, the practising members such as auditors, partners in auditing firms go through very stringent procedures that ensure that they meet the highest standards of performance and professionalism. Annually they have to renew their practising licences and this takes them through an arduous process of compliance checks to ensure that they have undertaken the minimum required hours of relevant continuing professional education over the past twelve months. By ‘relevant’ I mean that the CPD has to enhance their knowledge in their work and their specific engagements. If they specialise in information systems audits for example, they have to undertake CPD relating to IT audits and IT consultancies.
In addition to this, once every three years, practising members have to undergo Practice Reviews by International Reviewers who examine their firms overall control environment and also review their engagement files. The reports on their performance are reviewed by the institute and any weaknesses identified are addressed by the practising partners until the required level of performance is achieved.
For this category of members, I am confident to declare that our practising members/audit partners are of the highest quality possible and they perform to international standards. Even with all these controls in place some audit firms also have their own private audit practice reviews which are quite meticulous and which are conducted by experts from their headquarters abroad.
Secondly, the rest of the members have to be monitored through annual CPD returns. The main problem with this group is that not all professional accountants are registered with the Institute and consequently if you are not registered, then you can not be controlled. The proposed Financial Reporting Act (FRA) which is due to be put before Parliament before the end of the year 2007, has codified the issue of membership and stated that all individuals who perform accounting or accounting related tasks whether for a fee or for a salary, as long as that work can be associated with the role of a professional accountant, then they should be registered with the Institute. Once they are in our books, they are in our kraal and therefore we are better placed to control them. The first point of control is again through the CPD monitoring which has been enhanced to international standards with the assistance of ACCA.
The only other way in which the Botswana Institute of Chartered Accountants can control them is with the help of the general public by reporting any sub standard performance work to the Institute or any unethical behaviour. There is a fully fledged disciplinary committee which hears such complaints and take disciplinary actions for proved cases and such disciplinary action may include exclusion from membership.
The Botswana Institute of Chartered Accountants enforces professional and ethical behaviour but since this is really an attitude of mind, action against members who breach ethical rules need to be initiated by those people who have been victimised or else if only left to BICA, many cases could go undetected.
Our obligation to the public is simple; to protect public interest. The Institute has to make sure that it provides to the public a product or service of the highest quality possible and protect the public against its members who try to cheat or mislead them.
To be a member of the Botswana Institute of Chartered Accountants means that you have been accepted into membership of an elite group. First, before you can consider membership of the Institute, you must have a minimum qualification prescribed by the Institute from time to time. The lowest level of membership is that of Licentiate.
The details of all these requirements for membership at all the other levels can be obtained from the Institute as they are too bulky to be covered in this interview. In a nutshell, there are four levels namely, Fellow member (FCPA) Bots, Associate member (ACPA) Bots, Registered member (RBICA) and Licentiate member (LBICA).
Any person other than a body corporate who has attained the age of 21 years; Is resident in Botswana; Has passed such examinations as may from time to time be prescribed by the Council; Is in the opinion of the Council, a fit and proper person to be admitted as a member of the institute and is a member in good standing of such other institute or professional body of accountants, which is recognised by the Institute.
The affairs of the Institute are managed by the Council in accordance with the provisions of the Act, the rules and regulations and any lawful resolutions passed at a general meeting of the Institute.The Council membership assists of the following persons:
- The Accountant General or his nominee
- The Auditor General or his nominee
- Six member of good standing in the Institute, at least two of whom shall be a member in public practice, two of whom shall be outside of public practice and all of whom must be resident in Botswana and who shall be elected to be members of the Council at the annual general meeting.
- Registered members’ representative
- Licentiate members’ representative
- The Northern Committee Chairman
An elected member of the council shall, unless he vacates his office earlier, hold office for a period of two years from the date of his election.
The Council operates through committees which differ according to the subjects that they address. Elected members of the Council besides representatives of the registered and licentiate class are chairpersons of the committees and they act more like Ministers in a Cabinet. The committees deal with distinct areas such as:
- Membership and subscriptions
- Education and Training
- Public relations
- Practice Review
Committees play a very important role in the governance of the Institute. They do all the research and spadework and make recommendations to council for approval. All decisions are made by Council or by person, or committees delegated to make those specific decisions.
Committees significantly facilitate the decision making process by Council because if Council was to do the detailed work that committees do, it would need the whole day to complete the business of each Council meeting. This is why it is important that members of the institute join committees to contribute their expertise to the running of their Institute.
It has been recognized by many professional accountancy bodies throughout the world that it has become essential for accountants to keep up to date with the current developments in order to maintain their professional competence.
As a consequence of this need, the council has decided to adopt the principle of continuing professional development (CPD) for its members. The members passed a resolution in the last AGM changing the rules of the Institute to provide for compulsory or mandatory CPD.
Currently, the required level of CPD involvement has been set at 120 hours over a period of three years with a minimum of 21 hours of verifiable CPD in any one year. The Institute conducts seminars and conferences to help members update themselves with the current developments. Members are required to render a return each year indicating the number of CPD hours completed during the previous year.
The Botswana Institute of Chartered Accountants conducts regular workshops, seminars and other professional events in augmenting continuing professional education amongst its members. These seminars and workshop cover a wide cross section of subjects so that they cater for the wide and divergent requirements of our membership.
Each year the Institute plans to provide more than two hundred hours of CPD covering Accounting, Tax and Auditing updates, miscellaneous subjects like Corporate Governance, Strategic Planning, Information Technology, Human Resources Management and Performance Management to mention but a few. In addition, specialised seminars are run such as Money laundering and Detection of Fraud. The overall objective is to update its member community and other stakeholders with the latest developments in the accounting profession.