A Localized Professional Accounting Qualification: Lesotho’s Journey
Nthabiseng Shale-Tlhomola | September 21, 2018 |
Addressing Market Demands for Accountancy Education
Like many professional accountancy organizations (PAO) in developing and emerging economies, the Lesotho Institute of Accountants (LIA) historically relied on foreign qualifications issued by other global accountancy organizations. After an assessment in 2009 by our key stakeholders it was determined there was market demand and a need for a revived, local qualification framework—one that is responsive and able to understand Lesotho’s economic context—we began the work to change this. As a trusted advisor and advocate for high-quality and relevant accountancy education, we knew undertaking the significant initiative to design, establish and launch a national qualification would be worth the effort.
This shift would enable the qualification to take into account the law and reality of practicing accounting and audit in Lesotho, ensure affordability for aspiring accountants, and, most importantly, meet the needs of all sectors of the Lesotho economy—with particular emphasis on the needs of the public sector, which employs a high percentage of accountants in Lesotho.
Designing and implementing a local qualification is a huge undertaking and requires a great deal of resources—financial, technical, and human. Partnerships and collaboration were key to our success, including, from 2009 to 2016, financial assistance from the World Bank and the European Development Fund (EDF). With support from many stakeholders, the qualification framework, structure, and syllabus were developed and the Lesotho Professional Accountancy Programme (LePAP) was born.
With the foundation set, LIA needed the technical and human resources to operationalize the program. The EDF provided a grant to develop and build the technical capacity of key individuals and staff. LePAP lecturers and LIA staff focused on program delivery and exam management while examiners and moderators were intensively trained on exam preparation, materials, and marking. Additionally, learning materials for students and teachers were developed along with the structure for managing and monitoring practical experience. Crucially, the EDF grant also allowed LIA to sign a strategic partnership with Institute of Chartered Accountants of England and Wales.
We are pleased to report that the Botho University just accepted our first students in to the first—Technician—stage of our program (the LePAP is divided into three stages). The first students for the final, Chartered Accountants, stage is scheduled for 2021.
Implementing our qualification was not without its challenges—indeed, the first program enrolment was originally planned for 2015. We faced some challenges related to lengthy regulatory requirements and sponsorship for students to enroll into the program. To overcome these issues, LIA partnered with one of the well-known and respected local universities, Botho University, to offer the program. The government has also agreed to financially support the first program class while going forward the National Manpower Development Secretariat —the body responsible for overseeing sponsorship of tertiary education in Lesotho—will sponsor the students.
The qualification has clearly enabled LIA to enhance government and university engagement—key accountancy stakeholders—and has earned their buy-in given the qualification’s localization and relevance to the Lesotho context. All three stages of the qualification program have exit points so that students can finish any stage with practical experience and earn a qualification that is recognized by the market. At the CA stage, the LePAP divides into two streams—private and public sector—to permit students to specialize. This allows future professionals to develop the core competencies needed for their desired career path and employment.
The LePAP is also global in that it subscribes to the requirements in the International Education Standards (IES), issued by the International Accounting Education Standards Board and which LIA strives to incorporate into all educational programming as part of its IFAC membership obligations. The LIA Capacity Development team, which developed the LePAP qualifications framework, thoroughly examined the knowledge, understanding, and skills requirements for professional development and looked extensively at how to incorporate issues of professional values and ethics in the scheme. Furthermore, it also addresses the multiple IES requirements that deal with admission requirements, practical experience, and assessments. As such, the courses in the new curriculum are aligned to global best practices and enhance the competitiveness and mobility of our Lesotho professionals.
The LePAP has been carefully designed to produce competent, qualified professional accountants of the 21st century who are responsive to the dynamic, fast-changing developments of the profession nationally and internationally such that their reports can be interpreted by any investor in the world. The LePAP has also increased emphasis on public sector accounting content and has deepened private sector exposure.
As our first class begins this winter, we are still on a learning curve. How have other PAOs implemented their own qualifications? We would like to get input from other countries and PAOs to continue to progress in the right direction. With the introduction of LePAP and additional insights, we’re sure that the accountancy profession in Lesotho will continue to thrive.
If you are interested in learning more about the project or seek more practical guidance considering the development a local qualification, please post a comment below or visit the LIA’s website. Don’t forget to subscribe to receive updates from the IFAC Quality & Development Team, and let us know if your PAO has led an initiative to enhance accountancy education in your jurisdiction—we would love to showcase your work in action!