Society of Accountants in Malawi (Socam) has regretted Parliament’s failure to debate the Public Accountants and Auditors Bill 2012, which would, among other things, give the Malawi Accountants Board (MAB) a stronger regulatory role.
The Public Accountants and Auditors Bill, 2012, is meant to replace the Public Accountants and Auditors Act of 1982, which according to Socam chief executive officer, Daniel Dunga, is outdated and out of touch with new developments in the accountancy profession.
Parliament’s public relations officer Ian Mwenye confirmed that the bill appeared on the Order Paper.
“The Public Accountants and Auditors Bill, 2012, was there on the Order Paper. It appeared as deal number 32 of 2012, and was on the list of those that were to be debated, but sometimes, because of time, some issues are carried over to the subsequent meetings,” he said, assuring that it was not missed out on purpose.
The accountancy profession is meant to serve public interest and enhance the credibility of the business climate in a country which in turn attracts investment and spurs economic growth.
It is critical for any country to develop its accountancy profession and that is one of the things that the Bill seeks to do for Malawi, according to experts.
The Bill will further support the development of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Malawi (Icam), thereby enhancing the professional standing of the accountancy profession in the country through the development of a national qualification.
“The Public Accountants Examination Council of Malawi [Paec], established by the Public Accountants and Auditors Act (CAP 53:06) to administer accountancy examinations, will be abolished and merged with Socam to create the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Malawi.
“Currently, all qualified accountants in Malawi qualify with and are members of foreign professional bodies. This puts pressure on the country’s foreign currency demand,” said Dunga, adding that Icam will remove dual membership of accountants to foreign bodies, or the need to sit foreign examinations; hence, save on the country’s foreign currency,” he said.
Dunga noted that a restructuring of the profession by making MAB independent; creating a fully-fledged national institute and requiring mandatory registration of accountants, is perceived to be in the best interest of the accountancy profession in Malawi and the Malawi economy in general.
“The Bill endeavours to strengthen MAB to make it more independent and give it more regulatory powers to regulate the profession. It also empowers Icam to introduce a national local professional qualification for accountants in Malawi. Icam will be responsible for student affairs, examinations, members’ affairs, professional standards and regulation of both students and professional accountants. This will place Icam on the same footing as other bodies within the region and elsewhere,” he said.
Under the new arrangement, Malawi will develop its own professional qualification which serves its national interests thus exerting control on the quality of the profession and the content of its syllabi unlike currently where Malawi wholly depends on foreign qualifications.
Many Malawians find the accountancy profession inaccessible due to cost and logistical hindrances, especially because the profession is largely foreign-based. Icam examinations will make the profession more accessible to Malawians.
Currently, Malawi only offers a technician diploma. It is the only country in the Southern Africa Development Community (Sadc) and Common Market for East and Southern Africa (Comesa) region without a national qualification in accountancy.
As MAB stands now, Dunga said its regulatory position is compromised by various factors, including inadequate technical capacity and a weak legal framework.
“For example, in Malawi, unlike many countries in the world, it is not mandatory for accountants to register with MAB or Socam except for audit practitioners. Regulation and enforcement of ethics and discipline is, therefore, impossible for unregistered people. This has resulted in the proliferation of many unscrupulous people masquerading as accountants and cheating Malawians as there is no mechanism to bring such to book,” he said.
He further observed that there is no mechanism to monitor and enforce ethical behaviour among accountancy students in Malawi as well as to coordinate their practical training scheme as there is no body to enforce students’ registration from the various examination bodies.