The International Federation of Accountants
IFAC is an international organization with membership in more than 120 countries. It is devoted to the protection of the “public interest by encouraging high quality practices by the world’s accountants.” IFAC has four primary areas of activities, (a) serving the public interest through setting accounting standards in the areas of auditing, education, ethics and public sector financial reporting, (b) facilitating cooperation among member and regional accountancy bodies by working with member organizations to ensure competence and integrity of accountants universally and (c) speaking out on behalf of the international profession by serving as the primary spokesman for the accounting profession worldwide, www.ifac.org.
Given LICPA’s membership in IFAC, the organization is obligated to follow the code of conduct established by IFAC. The IFAC code of conduct requires its member organizations to follow the highest ethical standards. The International Ethics Standards Board of Accountants (IESBA), an autonomous body of IFAC sets ethical standards for the organization. The standards include, “continuing educational development requirements, corporate governance regulations, professional or regulatory monitoring requirements, external review by a legally empowered third party of reports, returns and communications produced by a professional accountant”, www.ifac.org/Members.
LICPA’s Membership Responses
As part of the membership process, LICPA’s submitted “part one membership responses” were posted on IFAC’s website January 2006. According to the document, www.ifac.org/complianceAssessment, LICPA currently has 40 members who served as Certified or Chartered Accountants in Liberia. 20 members are currently in public practice (CPA firms), 10 members are practicing in industry (companies), 5 members are in the public sector (government) and 5 members are in academia (universities and colleges). However, the document does not specify how many LICPA members are certified or chartered as the result of internationally recognized certification processes based on examination by either the State Board of Accountancy in the US, the Institute of Chartered Accountants in the United Kingdom (UK), other internationally recognized accounting bodies or Liberian certification process. The document claims that the low number of LICPA members is due to the civil war which caused most members of the organization to flee from Liberia. LICPA faces enormous challenges as a professional organization in a conflict or post conflict environment. However, I believe the low level of LICPA’s membership is also due to the organization’s failure to establish an internationally accepted certification process.
The LICPA document submitted by Mr. Sam D. Monbo, Sr., Executive Director of LICPA and approved by Mr. Francis BS Johnson (current Auditor General, Republic of Liberia) who is also President of LICPA, states that membership requirements are “(a) a bachelor’s degree in accounting, (b) 2-3 years of employment with a CPA firm, (c) applicant must pass an examination administered by the Executive Committee of LICPA”. However, the document states that there has not been any examination conducted by the organization for some time now due to the Liberian civil war. It means that except for Liberians credentialed in other countries who returned to Liberia between 1990 and 2005, LICPA has not accorded full membership to anyone as the result of meeting its membership requirements locally. A former employee at a major international public accounting firm in Liberia in the 1980s claims that LICPA attempted to have the Liberian staff at the international public accounting firm pay money to LICPA in order to be certificated as CPAs, but the Liberian staff declined the offer.
According to the LICPA membership responses, the organization has five members who serve as an oversight body to ensure that standards established by the IFAC and the Revenue Code of Liberia are followed. This oversight body is accountable to the Ministries of Finance and Commerce, two public entities that regulate the public accounting profession in Liberia. According to the document, all entities with gross income of at least US $100,000 per year are required to be audited.
Questions for LICPA
After a careful review of the LICPA submitted document, I emailed several questions to LICPA’s Executive Director, Mr. Sam Monbo for clarification. I inquired as to when did LICPA obtain IFAC’s membership and that the document submitted to IFAC did not include the year LICPA obtained IFAC’s membership as required. Does LICPA have a process of peer review, if so how often does it occur? In public accounting, a peer review is a process of quality control by which a public accounting firm’s accounting and auditing practice is reviewed by a professional peer to determine if the firm’s system of quality control is designed to meet the requirements of AICPA (USA) or IFAC (Liberia) Statements of Quality Control Standards. Has LICPA admitted anyone since 1989, if so, how many were admitted as the result of meeting LICPA’s internal requirements and how many were CPAs and CAs from abroad? Finally, I asked Mr. Monbo what are the problems facing LICPA? Mr. Monbo has not responded to my inquiries up to press time.
The organization has a responsibility to the public to institute measures that would uphold the integrity of the public accounting profession in Liberia. LICPA needs to be reorganized to enhance quality services based on professional competence, integrity, and objectivity, advocating and promoting the public image of its members, articulating positions on professional and public issues when necessary, WWW.PICPA.org. In view of this, I submit the following recommendations to LICPA to help improve the quality of the public accounting profession in Liberia:
1. LICPA should establish a relationship with an internationally
recognized accounting body such as the American Institute
of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), Institute of
Chartered Accountants in the United kingdom or the State
Board of Accountancy in the US to assist upgrade the
quality of public accounting in Liberia by administering
Continuing Professional Education (CPE) courses to Liberian
CPAs, establishing a high quality control system in
Liberia, among others.
2. LICPA should initiate a rigorous process of peer review to ensure that public accounting practices in Liberia meet internationally accepted standards.
3. LICPA should make information about its membership available to the public in the absence of a governmental body in Liberia to make such information available to the public. This information should include time of initial membership, whether a member is in good standing, and whether a member became member as the result of domestic process. This will help the public to make informed decision about the selection of auditors.
4. LICPA should recommend to the Government of Liberia to establish the Liberia Board of Accountancy (LBA) which will be the regulatory body to license certified public accountants in Liberia. The LBA should develop a collaborative relationship with the State Board of Accountancy in the US or the Institute of Chartered Accountants in the UK for Liberian candidates to take the CPA or CA examination based on the requirements of either of the two institutions. The LBA could administer a supplementary examination to successful Liberian CPA candidates based on Liberian revenue and tax accounting. For example, the CPA examination is now computerized in the US, once Liberian candidates meet the requirements of a particular state board of accountancy, they could take the CPA exam right in Liberia via the company that administers the CPA exam for the State Board of Accountancy.
5. LICPA should collaborate with the Institute of Chartered Accountants (Ghana) or a regional accounting body to reorganize LICPA to standards equivalent to the ICA and other international accounting bodies.
6. LICPA should work with the government of Liberia and the board of directors of public corporations to change auditors at any public corporation or government institution that has been audited by the same Liberian auditing firm for the past three years. There have been reports of massive corruption at the Liberia Petroleum Refinery Corporation (LPRC), National Port Authority (NPA), and Bureau of Maritime Affairs (BMA) among others, in past years. If these entities were audited by Liberian auditing firms and they turned out to have massive breakdown in their internal control systems leading to the misappropriation of assets or fraudulent financial reporting as indicated by audits of these entities by international auditing firms, it suggests that the Liberian auditing firms that audited these entities have serious quality control problems.
The public accounting profession is important and could play a crucial role in Liberia’s quest for transparency, accountability, integrity and objectivity. Therefore, LICPA as the authoritative public accounting body has the responsibility to assist uphold the integrity of public accounting in Liberia. LICPA should play an important role in the development of the profession by seeking cooperation agreements with international CPA bodies or State Board of Accountancy to improve the public accounting profession in Liberia. The level of deference that the international community will develop for the public accounting profession in Liberia depends on the “technical proficiency, problem-solving ability, the ability to think strategically” and other key competency traits exhibited by LICPA and its members.
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