Welcome Icam

Almost every young person has an ambition. However, very few youths in Malawi manage to achieve their desired careers not only because of poor career guidance but due to lack of financial muscle necessary for them to fulfil their ambitions.

I had a friend during my secondary school days who wanted to become a pilot or sound engineer. He did quite well in subjects that were in line with his desired programmes but failed to achieve his ambition due to financial constraints.

In the end, he did a diploma in financial accounting. He was supposed to go further with his studies and become a chartered accountant. He, again, failed to do so.

News of the merger between The Public Accountants Examination council (Paec) and Malawi Accountants Board (MAB) to become Institute of Chartered Accountants in Malawi (Icam) has brought relief to those in dire need of relatively inexpensive programmes.

Basically, students at private colleges sit examinations under international examining bodies to attain the highest qualification which is relatively expensive. Students pay in dollars or pounds; registration, examination fees, annual subscription and text books.

Parliament has just passed a bill to enable the merger take place. As a new kid on the block competing with world class established boards such as the Association of Certified Chartered Accountants (Acca) and Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (Cima) is not easy.

The Icam board needs to look at this development holistically and not just saving foreign currency. The board should know that accounting students pay a lot of money to purchase text books and kits. It can make sense only if publication and printing of the books, kits and magazines are done locally other than awarding contracts to international companies, who will in turn drain the very foreign currency it is trying to save.

Much as we anticipate seeing a lot of students preferring local examining body as paying in the local currency will be cheaper, the board has to work hard to produce high calibre graduates who can compete with those that have international qualifications.

The board should always ensure that its members are up to date on any new accounting standards and any exposure draft as it might be suggested by the International Accounting Standard Board by ensuring that every year member conferences are being held in all regions to enable accountants move with time and apply international standards.

Icam also needs to devise a security measure to protect prospective employers against fraudsters who might jump onto this opportunity to enrol for this anticipated cheaper programme with a hidden intention of defrauding companies.

Hence, Icam should develop a strong code of conduct which can govern the behaviour of Icam’s graduates. It can also consider introducing practising licences as it is with the legal profession. Fraudsters can be stripped of their practising licences for a defined period as a punitive measure. This will give the local body a competitive advantage as most international examining bodies lack this element.

The board should consider incorporating courses that can help students to become entrepreneurs by providing necessary skills.

The author is an accountant at Churchill and Norris (Law Consultant) and a student with University of Malawi, The Polytechnic.

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