Repositioning The Accounting Technician

Accounting Technician
Presentation by The Executive Secretary of the
Association of Accountancy Bodies of West Africa
Margaret Unubun (FCA)
At the 2nd Africa Congress of Accountants ( ACOA )
Accra – Ghana, 15th May,2013.
• 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.
• 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
• Who play supporting role to the professional
• 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
Structure of the Syllabus
The Syllabus has a three part structure with
twelve subjects as listed:
Basic Accounting Processes and Systems
Business Law
Communication Skills
Principles and Practice of Financial Accounting
Public Sector Accounting
Quantitative Analysis
Information Technology
Principles of Auditing
Cost Accounting
Preparing Tax Computations and Returns
• 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
• 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.
• 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.
• 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
• 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
• 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
Consequently, I will like us to look at these
from 2 perspectives:
• 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.
• 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.
• Understand the political terrain in your
• CPD is a must for the accounting technician
• They cannot act as external auditors and
cannot sign financial statements.
Thank You

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