The Liberian Institute of Certified Public Accountants (LICPA) and Stella Maris Polytechnic (SMP) have signed what is being described as a landmark Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that seeks to raise the standard of the accounting profession in Liberia through the infusion of robust, efficient, standardized and up-to-date accounting education with the help of world-class instructional materials and staff.
This initiative, according to the MOU, will not only help to bring sanity to the profession through discipline and professionalism, but it will also increase the number of competent accountants—and the likelihood of bringing to an end the importation of certified accountants in the country by international NGOs and other development partners.
The objectives, as enshrined in the MOU will be accomplished by way of the LICPA’s Syllabi Integration Program (SIP), under which, as the name indicates, the syllabi of the Institute’s two (2) professional accounting credential programs will be suitably integrated into the accounting curriculum of the Polytechnic.
The agreement was sealed on Tuesday, January 29, 2019, on the St. Joseph Campus of the Polytechnic in Monrovia. LICPA president Victor S. Tanwone, Sr., signed for the Institute, while SMP president, Sister Mary Laurene Browne, signed for the school.
The LICPA president, in a brief remark, said: “The intent of the MOU is to enable the Institute to assist the Polytechnic in raising accounting education at the school to a world-class standard.”
Describing the signing of the MOU as a historic moment “for us all, especially for the accounting profession in our country,” Mr. Tanwone expressed dismay over the manner in which students are taught the accounting profession in the country, noting that there has to be a paradigm shift.
“We have noticed that the accounting curricula in the country are very weak. So as per our mandate, we started to engage the various universities. We want to say thanks to SMP for being the pilot. They have always been at the head of the queue,” he said. “This initiative started in 2013 when they embraced the program to sign an MOU with us but the EVD outbreak disrupted the process, thereby leading us back to the drawing board.”
The LICPA president disclosed that the program is being used as an exit exam for SMP students. “What I mean is that when they should have completed their academic programs here, they will be required to pass the ASWA examination as a criterion for graduation,” he noted. This is a very good approach because it strengthens their competence, he also said.
The LICPA’s foundation program is referred to as the Accounting Technicians Scheme, West Africa (ATSWA), which is organized and uniformly administered by the five (5) English speaking member institutes of the Association of Accountancy Bodies in West Africa (ABWA), headquartered in Lagos, Nigeria.
ABWA itself is the umbrella of the Professional Accounting Organization (PAO) of the national PAOs of the member states of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
On that basis, ATSWA examinations are uniformly administered (same exams, same day and exactly the same starting and completion time), east to west, in Cameroon, Nigeria, Ghana, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and The Gambia.
Mr. Tanwone expressed regret that Liberian students are not on par with their regional counterparts. “When you look around in the region, Ghana, Nigeria and others, students coming out of the universities and those completing the ATSWA exams have that technical competence that automatically qualifies them for the job market unlike Liberia.
“Like some of us in the public sector, when our students come from the universities and into the working system, you find out that they are very weak in terms of the actual accounting practice. What baffles me is that how come a student comes from the university with a degree but cannot post a single entry?”
It is against this backdrop that the LICPA, he said, is collaborating with SMP “so that we improve the accounting education in our country. We will make the instructors available and also provide instructional materials as well as other technical support.”
Mr. Tanwone indicated that the vision of the LICPA is to see more competent Liberians on the job market, both nationally and internationally, in the next few years. He hoped other universities will follow suit.
He added that the MOU will ensure that accounting education at the Polytechnic will be in line with the relevant accounting education standards issued by the International Accounting Education Standards Board (IAESB). The IAESB is one of four (4) independent standard-setting boards of the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC), which is the highest Professional Accounting Organization (PAO) in the world.
Upon signing the documents, SMP’s president Sister Mary Laurene expressed gratitude to the Institute for the partnership.
“We are very grateful for this partnership. Anything that enhances our students [with] more confidence as future professionals make us very happy to embrace. And the idea of Liberian students being to external exams that will help boost their confidence and skills we will wholeheartedly welcome,” she said.
The overriding objectives of the program are twofold. Firstly, for those who come under the SIP, starting the second semester of academic year 2018/2019 and going forward, an accounting major at the Polytechnic, who is covered by the SIP, shall be required to qualify to be credentialed as a Certified Accounting Technician (CAT) by the time the student completes junior year courses at the Polytechnic.
Secondly, successful students have a chance to additionally qualify and be credentialed as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) by the time of graduation.