The Liberian Institute of Certified Public Accountants(LICPA) has announced that in its pursuit of excellence, under funding obtained from the World Bank, the Institute has officially commenced a partnership Project with the Institute of Certified Accountants, Ghana (ICAG).
Mr. Nim’ne E. Mombo, Sr., President of the Liberian Institute explained that the primary focus of the Program is to build the institutional capacity of the LICPA so that it becomes and performs as a world class Professional Accounting Organization (PAO), on par with other PAOs elsewhere in Africa and around the world.
He explained that the program is sponsored by the World Bank under a mentoring program that the Bank, for its own reasons, prefers to refer to as “Twinning Partnership.”
Professor Kwame Boasiako Omane-Antwi, Project Director and Chief of Party of the Ghanaian Institute, added that although the World Bank supports many similar programs around the world, the current LICPA-ICAG program is unique in that this is the very first time in the history of the Bank’s sponsorship of such projects, that a Professional Accounting Organization (PAO) in one developing country has been chosen to partner with and mentor a PAO in another developing country.
He explained that in all other cases around the world, the trend has been that a Professional Accounting Organization (PAO) in an advanced economy is chosen to partner with and mentor another PAO in a developing country.
Professor Antwi, is no stranger to Liberia, having previously served as instructor then later as Dean of the Business College of the University of Liberia in the years before the Liberian civil war. He is currently a professor and Dean of the Business College of the Pentecost University of Ghana; and is also the current Vice President of the Institute of Chartered Accountants, Ghana; in which capacity he is also the incoming President of that sister institute of the LICPA.
Dr. Williams Atuilik, a member of the ICAG team and Council member of the Ghanaian Institute, added that the World Bank accepted the ICAG to partner with and mentor the LICPA in recognition of the cooperation that has already existed, going back to 2008, between the two sister institutes before the World Bank’s twinning partnership for Liberia was conceived.
He explained that starting informally in 2008, then later under a Memorandum of Understanding signed in 2010 between the two institutes, the Ghanaian Institute helped its Liberian counterpart to successfully launch the LICP’s Accounting Technicians Scheme, West Africa (ATSWA); then later offered its professional credentialing program to candidates of the LICPA.
Under that arrangement, LICPA candidates who complete the professional qualification program of the ICAG, qualify for admission into the Ghanaian Institute as Chartered Accountants; and then upon passing one additional paper in Liberian taxation, graduates of the ICAG professional program additionally qualify for admission into the LICPA as Certified Public Accountants.
Dr.Atuilik is also no stranger to Liberia having previously served as a Consultant, sponsored by the African Development Bank, to the Ministry of Finance.
Prof. John Bright Kobla Aheto, the third member of the ICAG team of three, explained further that in close consultation with the LICPA, the ICAG consultants will focus on assisting the LICPA to develop a strategic development plan that is sufficiently robust to move the LICPA forward and empower the Liberian Institute to achieve its goals.
He added that he and his colleagues will ensure that the LICPA’s strategic plan that will result from the cooperative venture between the two sister institutes will be compelling in identifying objectives that will deliver the benefits sought.
He said the institute will be pragmatic in its assessment of factors not directly controlled by LICPA, achievable, taking into account the key commercial and financial issues, inclusive, taking into account the needs of different stakeholders and logical, especially to the key actors expected to deliver the outcomes.
He further noted that the institute will be coordinated in terms of the roadmap and associated implementation and sustainable both in terms of commercial and capacity constraints.
Mr.Aheto has served as Professor of Accounting and Finance at the University of Ghana Business School, where he served as Chairman of the Center for Management Research and Professional Development.
Mr.Nim’ne E. Mombo, Sr., President of the Liberian Institute, also noted that as part of the LICPA’s national capacity building programs, the Institute has commenced what he referred to as a Syllabi Integration Program (SIP).
The intent and drive of the SIP, he explained, is to raise accounting education in Liberian universities to global standards. The LICPA does this, he went on, by integrating the syllabi of its two credentialing programs (Foundation and Professional) into the accounting curricula of local universities that agree to partner with the LICPA in this important national capacity building effort. So far three tertiary institutions of learning (Adventist University, Cuttington University and Stella Maris Polytechnic) have signed on to the SIP.
Under the SIP students in participating universities will be required to pass the matching exams of the Institute as a condition for obtaining academic credit for the corresponding subject(s) taken at a participating school.
The objective of this endeavor is that students of participating universities will either qualify as professional accountants or be close to doing so by the time they complete the prescribed academic program in a participating university.
However, Mr.Mombo explained, the LICPA recognizes that because there has not been a history of professional accounting examinations in Liberia until very recently, staring 2008, there is naturally an acute shortage in the Country of accounting instructors who have themselves successfully gone through the rigors that students in participating Liberian universities will be subjected to under the SIP.
To address the concerns that are implicit in this situation, the Institute has sought and obtained support from the United States Agency for International Development (SAID), which through its GEMS program in Liberia, will fund the hiring, from around the world, of qualified accountants, each of whom has a track record of having coached candidates to pass comparable world-class credentialing exams.
Two of the USAID-funded accounting instructors are already in the Country, he said, with two others expected to arrive in July and later. The four instructors, the LICPA President said, will be assigned to teach specific preparatory courses at participating universities as well as in the LICPA’s regular coaching classes.
He noted that the LICPA will in close cooperation and collaboration with the Liberian Institute of Public Administration (LIPA) to restructure and expand the LICPA’s regular coaching program to accommodate civil servants who occupy accounting positions in various Ministries and agencies of the Government of Liberia.
Given that scope of coverage, Mr.Mombo noted, the four instructors so far hired by GEMS are not enough to fully meet the needs of the LICPA’s SIP as envisaged. However, four instructors of the prescribed caliberis all the USAID is so far committed to.
The LICPA then noted that it is most grateful to the US Government for its generosity. Meanwhile, the LICPA, he said, has appealed, to the National Legislature of Liberia to provide funding for the Program in the national budget for 2013/2014 to enable the LICPA to extend the Program to other tertiary institutions in in Monrovia and nearby and those in other parts of the Country, including the William V.S. Tubman Technical University in Harper, Maryland County and the various community colleges in other counties around Liberia, that will later join the Program.
The SIP officially starts in participating universities in the academic semester that commences August/September, 2013 and will be mandatory in those schools only for incoming freshmen as well as old students who would not have yet completed all freshman courses by then. Mr.Mombo promised that at an appropriate later time, the LICPA will call another press conference and will also henceforth explore various other ways to explain the Institute’s SIP to the Liberian public in greater detail.
Mr. James Dorbor Jallah, Executive Director of the LICPA, stated that as part of the LICPA’s partnership with the Institute of Chartered Accountants, Ghana, the Liberian Institute will also commence a separate but related program that is intended to put the LICPA in compliance with the requirements of Section 17 of the Liberian Institute of Certified Public Accountants Act of 2011.
That section of the Act requires the Institute to put in place technical training, practical hands-holding coaching as well as beneficial inspection procedures that are intended and designed to ensure that accountants licensed by the LICPA to engage in public accounting, particularly those that perform private sector financial statement audits in Liberia, do so in conformity with global standards promulgated by the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC), of which the LICPA is a member.
Mr.Jallah explained that the LICPA Act specifies that the quality control reviews required by the Act are performed by qualified and experienced quality control inspectors from outside of Liberia.
The LICPA, he concluded, has taken advantage of the opportunity provided by the current World Bank-sponsored twinning arrangement by providing in the related twinning agreement that the Ghanaian Institute will provide qualified audit quality assurance reviews to members of the LICPA who are in public practice as well as to Registered Practicing Accountants (RPAs) in Liberia.
Under the Act, Mr. Jallah concluded, an RPA is an accountant who was in public practice, as his principal means of livelihood but was, as at the coming into effect of the LICPA Act, not qualified for admission into the LICPA. This category of public accountants he said, are expected to fade out, over time, in the foreseeable future.