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In this time of unprecedented change, Professional Accountancy Organisations (PAOs) need to continue to support their members, and the wider public – finding opportunities and innovating to navigate the challenges we are all facing. The Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) and the Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Rwanda (ICPAR) are two PAOs that have refocused to do just that, including working together to harness opportunity and support our partners and stakeholders.

For ACCA, maintaining public good and supporting the development of the accountancy profession lie at the centre of our activities and our priorities. Collaboration, pooling resources, and support is a recurring theme. At the centre of ICPAR’s mission is the focus on relevance – which is more important than ever before and remains a central focus for the ICPAR during the pandemic. The strategic partnership between ACCA and ICPAR in Rwanda is a great example of how two organisations have worked together to identify where students and professional accountants need support and resources.

Providing Online CPD and Exams—Quickly!

During the current pandemic, PAOs globally are facing significantly reduced income from continuing professional development (CPD). Like all other PAOs, ICPAR has needed to respond swiftly to unprecedented challenges that have impacted their CPD programme and their exam logistics – and they’ve responded to these challenges while adjusting to remote working themselves, reviewing their internal resources, and taking on new roles and responsibilities within the team. To manage this situation, ICPAR examined how they drive revenue and continue to maintain relevance for the institute and its stakeholders that has been central to driving their success and growth as a PAO. As IFAC states:

‘…Professional accountants also need to play a pivotal role in ensuring the continued ability of organizations to be resilient to the significant challenges they face in these difficult times. This applies to all organizations—big and small---across all sectors of the economy, and involves helping organizations focus on good governance, sound strategy and strengthening their business models.

Our actions today will have a significant impact on our reputation and standing tomorrow.  By upholding the highest standards of our professional and ethical conduct during CV-19, and by challenging ourselves to exercise heightened diligence and being open and alert to further action needed, we will live up to our public interest responsibilities and continue to positively shape how our profession is viewed.’

ACCA and ICPAR are working closely together to tackle these challenges. This includes leveraging the work that ACCA has done to explore new platforms and channels to communicate with stakeholders and coordinate activity – with a focus on those that are compatible with our partners. For ACCA, with approximately 140 learning partner institutions across the Sub-Saharan Africa region - including approximately 60 'key partners' – the ability to coordinate effectively so that students can keep learning and accessing support and resources has been of central importance. By linking our partners with the most developed digital capability with those who have not yet fully developed their digital capability, we have managed to build a network that ensures as many students as possible can access tuition remotely.

As exam sessions have been significantly disrupted, the impact of this pandemic has been strongly felt by all those currently undertaking an accountancy qualification. ACCA is focusing on how we support students and tutors. It is quite different for students to learn remotely and some are having to adapt quickly to new ways of accessing and absorbing information. We have been holding webinars to support them in this.

Supporting Employers & Meeting Market Demands

Employers also play a key role in supporting students through their exams. ICPAR has been working closely with the Rwanda Revenue Authority (RRA) to arrange passes for employees to access their offices if they need to pick up study resources that will enable them to continue to progress their studies.

Additionally, for employers there is the dual issue of how to work in this 'new reality' but also how to continue to add value and focus on wellbeing. Research and insights that tackle these issues, such as how businesses are responding to significant changes, are included within ACCA’s online Covid-19 hub. Sharing insights to support employers is another area we have been able to pool resources and support their decision-making on where and how to focus in this 'new reality'.

On the other side, ACCA’s careers hub has support for members. This includes CPD resources and webinars that focus on up-skilling and the role of accountants as critical business partners which is more than ever at this current time.

ACCA and ICPAR are linking their teams who manage member support, so they can collaborate on opportunities to benefit members of both organisations. This includes providing members of both bodies with free access to online courses covering  machine learning, robotics and cyber security. ICPAR’s CEO, Amin Miramago, has highlighted how this supports ICPAR’s ongoing drive for relevance:

‘ICPAR’s partners and stakeholders expect us to be one step ahead in terms of the issues facing the accountancy profession – and look to us for support, guidance and resources – this has been no different during the current pandemic – and ICPAR has worked with our partners to maximise the role we can play at this time – both through shared resources but also the future-thinking and scenario planning that we are undertaking within the organisation.’

George Njari, Head of Education, ACCA adds that: ‘The partnership allowed ACCA and ICPAR to share our respective situations, but then to identify potential next steps. One key area that has emerged from this challenging time is a renewed focus on digital transformation. An area that is important to both organisations that we continue to collaborate.’

ACCA’s Covid-19 Global Survey: The Road to Recovery? explores the focus that organisations are putting on stronger and more forward-looking Information Technology – something that has always been central to ICPARs strategy, noting that:

‘Organisations focused on the long-term are pursuing digital transformation opportunities Digital transformation is the potential catalyst for wider business model change. The data suggests one third of organisations are currently transforming their digital operations and capabilities in response to the COVID-19 crisis and a similar proportion are transforming their customer engagement strategies through digital optionality. Those organisations focused on longer-term strategies are more likely to be adopting such strategies’

Planning Ahead

As ACCA continues to move content online, and offer resources for free to stakeholders where possible, we have shared these where we can with ICPAR and other key partners. However, while free resources are important to help with relevance and engagement, they do not drive revenue. Accordingly, the focus on building digital capabilities for PAOs to identify revenue-generating opportunities (including online CPD events) is important. As Mr. Miramago highlights, it is about thinking ahead.

To this end, ACCA and ICPAR are building upon the work we undertook together in 2018, for a project under the IFAC PAO Capacity Building Program. Through the project, ACCA and the Institute of Certified Public Accountants Kenya (ICPAK), developed an ICT (Information Communication Technology) guide to support PAOs to address their IT strategy – and ICPAR was a key contributor. Two years on ICPAR is now focusing on expediting the next steps of their strategy for IT to ensure it supports their broader organisational strategy and ambitions, maintains their relevance, and supports their numerous stakeholders.

ACCA and ICPAR have worked together to tackle the challenges brought on by the pandemic and we continue to innovate in this area. While resources remain scarce – this type of collaboration will be central to our on-going strength as PAOs and the value we provide to our stakeholders.

Mahalah Groves

Mahalah Groves is Head of Capacity Building at the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA).  ACCA’s global community of 227,000 members and 544,000 and future members is based across 176 countries.  Mahalah supports many of ACCA’s key partnerships across the global accountancy profession and has oversight of ACCA’s funded international development work.

Mahalah has been with ACCA since 2008 and, in her current role as Head of Capacity Building, she leads a wide variety of development projects to strengthen the accountancy profession. A portfolio that currently includes capacity building projects across Africa, Asia Pacific, Eastern Europe and South Asia. Her experience includes initiatives to implement international standards, develop strategy, and strengthen qualifications and regulation – and to support partner bodies in their journey toward membership of the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC).

Since 2017, Mahalah is a technical advisor to a member of the IFAC Professional Accountancy Organisation Development Committee (PAODC). Mahalah also plays a key role in ACCA’s partnerships with the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development and the international development community.

Prior to joining ACCA, Mahalah’s professional experience included intellectual property and brand development.