At least three-quarters of heads of finance departments in local governments now carry professional accountancy qualifications, a trend that financial sector leaders say should lead to better accountability in the government.
This has been helped by the increase in the number of professional accountants being churned out of institutions every year, according to Professor Twaha Kaawaase, a lecturer at Makerere University. However, cases of mismanaging public funds continue in different forms, but he says these have largely involved persons that are not professional accountants but are carrying out the roles.
According to the Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Uganda, since the Accountants Act of 2013 took effect, at least five accountants who are members of the professional body, have been delicensed after being implicated in unprofessional practices. The President of ICPAU, Constant Othieno Mayende, says Uganda as a country faces integrity issues across all sectors and that it is the duty of professional bodies like ICPAU to create and enhance the public confidence in the public and service sector.
He was speaking at the handover of scholarships to students chosen from different universities to take up the accountancy professional courses.
The law provides that chief finance officers in district administrations; ministries, departments, and agencies, and in other institutions like in the media sector, are supposed to have professional accountancy qualifications recognized by ICPAU.
Kaawaase, also a partner at Sejjaaka Kaawaase & Co. Certified Public Accountants, says that the government ban on the recruitment of non-professional accountants has helped to ensure the right people are in the right offices.
He advisess young professionals to be patient with life and avoid the temptation of abusing their positions.
On political influence, Kaawaase advises that an accountant should insist on having a written directive from their bosses if they feel that they are being directed to do what is not right. He cites an example of government officials, including ministers who, when faced with investigations, usually claim that they were acting out of orders.
Currently, the institute has over 3400 fully registered certified accountants, 2000 associates, and 600 basic graduates, according to the Chief Executive Officer, Derick Nkaja, while the country had only five professionals in 1992.
According to the law, graduates of CPA Uganda, and other qualifications like ACCA and IFCA from Uganda of abroad, are required to sit for some tests and on passing them, they are granted practicing certificates. This, according to Nkajja helps the institute monitor and control the sector.
However, he says they do not have the powers to arrest an offending member but work with the police where necessary. The other limitation of the law is that in order for action to be taken, there must be a complaint before the institution commences investigations.
Prof Samuel Sejjaaka, a veteran accountant, says that integrity issues are rampant in Uganda because of the country’s small middle-income sector. According to him, it is easy for someone to get tempted into corruption or keep quiet even when they notice a crime being committed, because of the low income that they have.