By CPA Okinyi Eston
It has been argued that Continuing Professional Development (CPD) could be the most expensive and demanding process in the working life of any certified public accountant yet it remains integral for the progressive enrichment of one’s knowledge and skills – needed so as to competently perform professional assignments. As a matter of fact, we currently have a huge number of CPA graduates who have been reluctant enough to join the Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Kenya (ICPAK) simply because of this long-held notion that the compliance process and fees are quite costly to afford and sustain.
According to the latest data from the Institute, there are only slightly over 30,000 registered accountants against a population of more than 60,000 CPA graduates from the Kenya Accountants and Secretaries National Examinations Board (KASNEB). This worrying trend could be highly attributed to the cost ofcompliance with the CPDs and indeed, it calls for a candid discourse that should entail interrogating the affordability of the whole compliance system as well as intentionally sharing the right information with both the potential and existing members of our great profession.
To start with, we will accept the reality that even within the current membership, the rate of default when
it comes to meeting compliance costs is still high. This therefore should beg for more questions than answers in the mind of any reasonable accountant. For instance, could it be true that CPDs are too expensive for an average accountant? Could there be an information gap about what activities constitute CPDs and how they can be attained? Could it be that most accountants are poorly paid in Kenya so they cannot manage to pay for these important costs?
Or could it be that most employers have not been willing to readily support their accounting staff in fulfilling CPD requirements? In an effort to effectively address some of the above concerns, it is imperative for us to essentially understand that the International Education Standard (IES7) as developed by the International Accounting Education Standards Board (IAESB), prescribes that all professional accountants must abide by the continuing professional development requirements.
Consequently, it is always in the best interest of members that our Institute, being a bona fide member of the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC), consistently commits itself to ensuring full implementation of the principles and training criteria set out by the Standard. Apparently, based on these grounds the Institute has constantly been trying to diversify and enhance its CPD programs in order to accommodate members of different financial capabilities.
To buttress this, with Covid-19 pandemic having suddenly struck the country in the year 2020 leaving countless Kenyans and accountants in particular adversely affected, some of these initiatives by the Institute to bring compliance closer and make it more affordable to its members were not only catalysed but also partly achieved. For example, when physical meetings were prohibited by the government because of the pandemic, ICPAK just like many other organizations, immediately embraced virtual meetings as a new normal where members could attend trainings and seminars at the comfort of their homes and workplaces.
A participant only required an internetenabled computer or mobile phone. However, there has since been a natural social expectation to blend virtual meetings with physical ones even as the former proves to be more convenient and cost effective. On affordability of the CPD activities, the Institute has fairly tried its best but it still needs to do more by deliberately cutting down certain costs so as to cover the diverse interests of its members especially the jobless young accountants and vulnerable people living with disabilities.
Nonetheless, there are plenty of free CPD trainings provided by ICPAK that members really should be watchful enough to take advantage of. Like in this calendar year alone, the Institute has given out such free events adding up to over 28 hours. This means that with the recommended minimum of 40 hours annually (25 structured and 15 unstructured), any member who responsively seized these opportunitieswould only be looking for 12 more or less to be on the compliant side.
We have for instance 5 CPD hours usually awarded to every member in attendance during the ICPAK AGM, an event which is nowadays held both physically and virtually thus giving members an opportunity to participate in big numbers unlike before when space was limited. Similarly, there are quite a number of special events such as Branch AMMs, occasional open forums with the CEO and Council Members just to mention a few that any member keen on achieving compliance with CPD hours would easily grab.
Important to note too is that apart from the structured CPD programs organized by the Institute in form of trainings and seminars, there are other alternative ways in which one can still obtain and fulfil the requisite hours. One of them is by participating in courses offered by the Institute or IFAC or any other Professional Institute or Association that provides continuing professional education relevant to our profession.Among the courses offered by the Institute here include the just recently launched certificationsin IFRS, IPSAS, AML (Anti-Money Laundering) and ERM (Enterprise Risk Management).
These are chargeable certification courses that will mainly focus on equipping professionals with expert knowledge in the respective areas of practice. Each course attracts 20 CPD hours and is expected to run for three months depending on the pace of the learner. In addition, pursuing individual study programmes for undergraduate or postgraduate qualifications should equally be able to earn a member structured CPD hours.Members are advised to promptly record the events on their portal and attach the relevant transcripts or certificates for approval.
Where members are actively involved in research projects, seminar presentations as well as service in technical committees, they are also allowed to submit evidence of such engagements for structured CPD hours for consideration. Then finally we have unstructured hours. Events that members can record under this category may comprise reading of both professional and technical journals covering finance, taxation, entrepreneurship, governance and accountability among other areas. These professional articles include the Accountant Journal that is regularlypublished by ICPAK.
On affordability of the CPD activities, the Institute has fairly tried its best but it still needs to do more by deliberately cutting down certain costs so as to cover the diverse interests of its members especially
the jobless young accountants and vulnerable people living with disabilities.
In this case, any member keen on satisfying the CPD requirements will effortlessly earn at least 6 unstructured hours annually by just ensuring that they read all the periodic Accountant Journals and subsequently record the activities on their online portal. In conclusion, I believe that it is possible for most members of the Institute (with exception to those in practice who must pay to attend at least three mandatory trainings per year) to meet the continuing professional development requirements without spending muchfinancially.
Now with the correct information in relation to compliance with CPD hours, we should robustlyencourage all the CPA graduates who have been shying away from registering with the Institute to come aboard. This initiative if successfully employed, might go a long way in helping to tackle the menace of quacks in the accounting industry since everyone will be regulated in their conduct and professional service to the public.