Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Rwanda
Member | Established: 2008 | Associate since 2012; Member since 2020
iCPAR was established under the Law on the Institute of Certified Public Accountants (iCPAR) No. 11 of 2008 (iCPAR Law 2008) with the mandate to regulate the accountancy profession in Rwanda. iCPAR confers two designations for its members: Certified Public Accountant (CPA) and Certified Accounting Technician (CAT) depending on their course of study. iCPAR membership is mandatory for CPAs, and only CPAs may conduct audits.
In accordance with Article 7 of iCPAR Law 2008, iCPAR is responsible for: (i) providing members with professional education in accountancy and related fields; (ii) advising on curricula for any accountancy courses; (iii) developing teaching programs to organize examinations and issuing certificates in matters relating to the accounting profession; (iv) establishing continuing professional development requirements; (v) issuing and promoting the implementation of accounting and auditing standards in the public and private sector; (vi) advising the government on matters relating to the profession; (vii) setting ethical requirements for members; (viii) issuing license of exercising the accounting profession to qualifying members requesting such license and withdrawing it in case of misconduct; (ix) operating a quality assurance (QA) review system for all audits; and (x) taking disciplinary measures against members.
In addition to being an IFAC Associate, iCPAR is a member of the Pan African Federation of Accountants.
Statements of Membership Obligation (SMO)
The Statements of Membership Obligations form the basis of the IFAC Member Compliance Program. They serve as a framework for credible and high-quality professional accountancy organizations focused on serving the public interest by adopting, or otherwise incorporating, and supporting implementation of international standards and maintaining adequate enforcement mechanisms to ensure the professional behavior of their individual members.
SMO 1: Quality Assurance
Since becoming an IFAC Associate, ICPAR has taken steps each year to progress the implementation of a QA review system, which requires technical and financial means. As mentioned, ICPAR was first able to launch a pilot AQA program in 2015–2016 with the support of ACCA after spending 2012–2014 drafting its AQA framework, relevant guidance, and training members on the procedures and benefits of QA reviews. ICPAR has stated that it has been monitoring the implementation of recommendations from the 2015/16 AQA feedback reports and these results will form the basis for subsequent review cycles.
With the recent recruitment of a Professional Development Services Director and a Quality and Development Manager, ICPAR intended to carry out the second cycle of AQA reviews in Q1 of 2020, with the support an external consultant. As mentioned above, this needed to be delayed until 2021 due to COVID-19. ICPAR hopes to resume the planning for the reviews by end of Q3. The ICPAR QA team is expected to develop their capacity through knowledge and skills transfer from the external consultant during this cycle.
The institute is preparing to conduct awareness campaigns on the importance of practitioners’ maintaining systems of quality control. Additionally, ICPAR has developed guidelines and quality control manuals for practitioners alongside holding continuing professional development events to support its members. The institute had intended to hold CPD in May 2020 on the results of the QA reviews, but again, this has been postponed due to the pandemic.
ICPAR is exploring how to work with PAOs in the region that may have more advanced QA review teams and rotate the quality control experts that are brought in to lead reviews.
ICPAR notes that public expectations and trust in the institute is growing at an exceptional rate. Stakeholders, such as the Central Bank of Rwanda, have requested that ICPAR strengthen its AQA system to enhance the quality of firms’ work making this a priority area for continued improvements.
Implementation of the second round of QA reviews and building ICPAR’s technical capacity are important next steps. Best practice for this area should guide ICPAR and the institute can consider how to offer trainings and CPD on the most common deficiencies found and ensure appropriate links with its investigation and discipline system.
The institute is also encouraged to continue monitoring and preparing members for the changes from quality control standards to quality management standards that being proposed and reviewed by the IAASB.
SMO 2: International Education Standards
ICPAR has progressed significantly in its fulfillment of SMO 2 since 2012. The institute first launched its own qualification in 2012, shortly before it became an IFAC Associate, that fulfilled the 2010 IES requirements. It was able to carry out examinations in 2014 for the first time with the support of regional PAOs, such as ICPAK and ICPAU.
In 2016, ICPAR became a beneficiary of the DFID-funded IFAC PAO Capacity Building Program. With the guidance and support of the ACCA, ICPAR has been revising its syllabi and curriculum for the CAT and CPA qualifications.
The CAT qualification has a competency-based curriculum that is aligned with the 2015 IES requirements and includes public financial management skillsets to address public and private sector needs. ICPAR has been engaging with universities on the new CAT syllabus to align university curricula and has conducted Train-the-Trainer workshops for lecturers and instructors that will enable them to better coach students toward becoming CATs, CPAs, and meet IES 1 requirements. ICPAR also has been providing tuition providers with performance statistics of students in their colleges to spur improvements in the quality of tuition and thereby, pass rates.
ICPAR is also revamping its CPA curriculum with support from the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning (MINECOFIN) and ACCA in a similar manner such that it entails content from various subject areas and competencies, with an appropriate mix of soft skills; professional values, ethics and attitude; and public financial management.
The review and update of the CPA curriculum commenced in November 2019 and is expected to be completed by November 2020. The key deliverables include: Detailed Research & Needs Assessment, Benchmarking Report, Competency Framework, Curriculum, Syllabus, Transition Rules & Exemption Guidelines, Learning Strategy and Assessment Strategy. Both ICPAR and ACCA have advised that the CPA project has continued as planned despite the constraints on in-person visits due to COVID-19. ICPAR plans to begin examinations using the new curriculum in 2021.
In February 2020, the institute released its accreditation framework (IAF/02/2020) for tuition providers and examination centers of ICPAR’s CAT and CPA qualifications. Organizations that are accredited under the IAF/02/2020 are those that will have been able to align national standards with the IES (1—6) requirements.
Lastly regarding IPD, ICPAR is progressing with strengthening its practical experience requirement to meet IES 5, which it has been working on since becoming an Associate. CPA candidates must have three years of supervised practical experience from a recognized employer and applicants are required to bring recommendation letters from their employers.
Stakeholders have encouraged ICPAR to invest in and strengthen the post-qualification practical experience to raise the standard and quality of accountancy graduates and meet IES 5 which outlines a mandatory, monitored three-year practical training period, among other requirements. For the CAT designation, a practical experience policy was prepared detailing how experience will be monitored. CAT candidates must have one-year of practical training. ICPAR envisages doing the same in the ongoing CPA project—i.e. producing a policy document describing how practical experience will be implemented and monitored.
Since its establishment, ICPAR has had mandatory CPD requirements in place that meet IES 7 and 8. It notes that raising awareness on members’ need to comply with IES 8 will be important.
ICPAR has made remarkable progress in the development of its new CAT qualification and engagement with stakeholders to ensure that it addresses the necessary competencies for the Rwandan market and meets 2015 IES requirements. The institute is encouraged to continue its efforts to subject the CPA qualification to same rigorous process and revision. Further, in 2019, newly revised IES address learning and development for information and communications technologies (ICT) and professional skepticism. As market expectation increases for ICT skills and professional skepticism, these standards were developed to address the competencies, skills, and behaviors for both aspiring and professional accountants in these critical areas. These revised standards become effective January 2021 and will be important for the institute to consider in the review of its CPA curriculum.
SMO 3: International Standards on Auditing
Since its establishment, ICPAR has maintained its adoption of ISA up to date. Application and implementation of the standards necessitates collaboration with key stakeholders. For example, ICPAR indicates that all listed entities apply the new auditor’s reporting standard as per the 2016 ISA (e.g. Bank of Kigali). In consultation with other regulators such as the Capital Market Authority and National Bank of Rwanda, ICPAR issued a circular at the end of 2019 which clearly defines public interest entities and will require these entities to apply the new auditor’s reporting standard and Key Audit Matters reporting requirements with the audit of FY 2019.
ICPAR promptly disseminates information to members related to audit standards. It also offers training and continuing professional development (CPD) for its members on ISA in addition to including ISA in its pre-qualification examinations. The institute’s Inspection Commission and Audit and Risk Committee handle technical queries related to ISA.
Additionally, ICPAR reports that its Professional Development Services will circulate IAASB exposure drafts among members and submit comment as needed. In cases where further guidance or clarification might be necessary, ICPAR notes that it will consult with neighboring PAOs in the region regarding implementation of certain standards.
As the 2018 Handbook became fully effective in December 2019, including revised standards ISA 250 and 540, ICPAR should consider outlining its activities for implementation support. It is important that syllabus and learning materials are also updated to include recent ISA. ICPAR is additionally encouraged to continue monitoring and preparing members for the changes from quality control standards to quality management standards that being proposed and reviewed by the IAASB.
SMO 4: Code of Ethics for Professional Accountants
The Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Rwanda’s (iCPAR) is legally authorized to issue a Code of Professional Conduct and Ethics that is kept consistent with the IESBA Code of Ethics for Professional Accountants. ICPAR has maintained ongoing adoption processes of ethical requirements since 2012. In March 2012, ICPAR issued its first Code for Professional Ethics. It subsequently has adopted revisions of the IESBA Code of Ethics per their effective date, most recently culminating in the adoption of the 2018 International Code of Ethics, which includes the NOCLAR standard.
To support implementation of the ethical requirements, ICPAR indicates that it will receive and share updates from the IESBA with members as part of raising awareness via its Quarterly Bulletin. For example, the institute pre-emptively communicated the change of the 2018 International Code to members prior to its adoption and included the new Code throughout its CPD programming in 2019.
The institute also has stated that its education curriculum covers ethical requirements extensively considering stakeholder feedback on the need to provide more educational sessions on the requirements of the IESBA Code of Ethics.
ICPAR is striving to ensure that members receive practical lessons on how to deal with threats to professional independence and that it has enhanced its CPD programming on topics such as conflicts of interest. It also states that it has shared information brochures and other educational materials on the Code along with including discussion on the Code in its annual conference.
There are challenges with the resources needed to monitor ICPAR members’ compliance with the revisions to the Code of Ethics. ICPAR reports that it does have plans to hire a manager that will have this core responsibility.
Considering the restructuring and revisions within the 2018 Code, ICPAR is encouraged to provide further information on planned actions or initiatives related to raising awareness on the 2018 International Code of Ethics and supporting its proper implementation amongst members. For example, it should note if the 2018 Code has been incorporated into educational programming and study materials already.
SMO 5: International Public Sector Accounting Standards
As a member state of the East African Community, the Rwandan Government set an objective to achieve full compliance with the cash-basis IPSAS by June 30, 2016 and aims to achieve full compliance with the accrual-basis IPSAS by June 30, 2023. At the national level, the iCPAR Law 2008 stipulates that within public institutions the accounting standards be consistent with IPSAS. Under the law, the Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Rwanda’s (iCPAR) is also responsible for advising the Rwandan Government on matters related to public financial management and accountancy and it is therefore expected to play a significant role in supporting the adoption and subsequent implementation of accrual IPSAS.
ICPAR has advanced several of the plans it outlined in its Associate application from 2012 at which time the institute was just organizing seminars and CPD for public sector accountants. The institute notes it does continue to offer CPD on IPSAS to members and government staff.
In collaboration with the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning (MINECOFIN), the institute has set-up a public sector accounting standards committee to guide the development of new standards and changes to current ones. ICPAR has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with key public sector entities such as the Ministry of Finance, the Rwanda Revenue Authority, the Capital Markets Authority, and the Rwanda Local Governments Association (RALGA) to provide technical support and training in response to government requests for training. Several trainings have occurred including an in-house training for the Accountant General’s office.
Over the course of 2014–2016, ICPAR explored several options of advancing public sector competencies such as a post-qualification certificate or specialized courses. Ultimately, it proceeded with revising and updating its CAT qualification to include public sector competencies and a PFM pathway. This was welcomed by stakeholders due to the high demand and need of competent, qualified public sector accountants to successfully implement the IPSAS transition blueprint.
It also contributes to the Public Financial Management Learning and Development Strategy (PFM L&D) developed by the MINECOFIN which aims to create a critical mass of professionals to support the Rwandan economy and public financial matters. ICPAR has been identified as a key partner in the implementation of the PFM L&D strategy and plans to develop a PFM qualification in partnership with MINECOFIN to drive the further professionalization of public sector accountants, which includes application of IPSAS.
Finally, the institute is committed to keeping stakeholders and members aware of latest developments with the IPSAS and PFM best practices. ICPAR launched a quarterly journal that disseminates information on public sector accounting developments amongst other topics.
ICPAR’s recent engagement and technical involvement in the advising on the adoption and implementation of IPSAS is commendable. The institute is encouraged to continue this path and provide updates on the progress of the following: (i) the Rwandan government’s reporting on accrual IPSAS and (ii) the development and launch of its CAT, and subsequently CPA, programming that includes public sector competencies.
SMO 6: Investigation and Discipline
iCPAR is responsible for establishing and operating an investigation and discipline (I&D) system for its members as mandated by iCPAR Law 2008 and has established I&D procedures accordingly. The institute has an Inspection Commission which, upon request by the Council, may investigate allegations/cases of professional misconduct and submit the report to the Governing Council. The Council will in turn hand the report over to the Disciplinary Commission which is responsible for analyzing and examining complaints related to professional misconduct and communicating a conclusion back to the Council. Individuals have the right to appeal the decision before the Council before a final decision is made.
iCPAR reports that steps were taken to enhance independence and objectivity of the Disciplinary Commission by having a lawyer advise on disciplinary cases. iCPAR notes that it has as formalized a link between its quality assurance (QA) review results and once QA reviews commence at the end of 2019, this will be operational. This ensures that iCPAR’s I&D procedures fulfill all the SMO 6 best practices.
The institute also has implemented IFAC recommendations including educating the public, members and stakeholders about its I&D procedures and liaising with regional partners. In 2018, ICPAR visited ICPAK to conduct a benchmarking study and enhance ICPAR’s knowledge on I&D procedures and enforcing compliance with ethical requirements.
ICPAR has reported that there has been an increase in reporting complaints which signals increased public awareness and trust in ICPAR to handle professional misconduct of accounting professionals. In 2018, it investigated one complaint; in 2019, it investigated two cases—both of which resulted in sanctions—and it is investigating a complaint in 2020 from the Central Bank. The institute has begun to publish a list of firms and practitioners that have been sanctioned for alleged professional misconduct. For example, information on the 2019 cases may be found here.
Lastly, ICPAR states it is working on creating a webpage dedicated to educating the public on its I&D system.
Given the increasing demand from the public and stakeholders for an effective I&D system, ICPAR is encouraged to outline a timeline and steps for enhancing its communications around I&D in the public interest – e.g. the development of its webpage on the topic. ICPAR is encouraged to continue its efforts to build its capacity in this area by learning from other PAOs in the region.
SMO 7: International Financial Reporting Standards
The Law on the Institute of Certified Public Accountants (iCPAR) No. 11 of 2008 states that, within the private sector, the accounting standards must be consistent with IFRS. iCPAR has therefore adopted IFRS and IFRS for small- and medium-sized entities (SMEs) without modifications.
Aside from adopting the standards, it has supported implementation by including IFRS within its CAT and CPA qualification programs, engaging with universities to align their accountancy syllabi with that of ICPAR and include IFRS, and offering regular CPD programming.
In 2019, ICPAR stated that it is focused on enhancing its monitoring of IFRS compliance. The institute reports that it has established, within its Inspection Commission, an IFRS expert group that will address IFRS implementation issues.
The institute also continues disseminating information by sending notifications of pronouncements, new developments, and revisions via email to members. It has been able to participate in the international standard-setting process through PAFA’s technical forum.
Based on input from several stakeholders, ICPAR is encouraged to consider training courses for members geared toward the practical implementation of IFRS for SMEs given the number of SMEs in the country. It is noted that compliance within the market is low, further suggesting that practical implementation training would be beneficial.
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