World Bank Liberia Country Manager Keynote Address at LICPA’s Inaugural Ceremony

Keynote Address at the Inaugural Ceremony of Newly Elected Officials of the Liberian Institute of Certified Public Accountants (LICPA)
Inguna Dobraja, World Bank Liberia Country Manager
Monrovia City Hall, Liberia
July 30, 2015

Honorable Tanneh Brunson, Deputy Minister of Finance and Development Planning;
Honorable Yusador Gaye, Auditor-General, Republic of Liberia;
Counsellor-at-Law James Verdier, Chairperson, Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission;
Mr. Arthur Fumbah, Incoming President of LICPA;
Elected Officials of LICPA;
Representatives of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Ghana (ICAG) and the Accounting Bodies of West Africa (ABWA);
Other Officials of the Liberian Government;
Development Partners;
Distinguished Guests;
Ladies and Gentlemen.

Good evening.
On behalf of the World Bank, I am delighted to join you today at this historic ceremony for the newly elected officials of the Liberia Institute of Certified Public Accountants (LICPA).  I would like to congratulate the LICPA on the successful leadership transition. It is indeed a privilege to be part of this this festive occasion, and I would like to extend my sincere congratulations to the new corps of executives led by Mr. Arthur Fumbah who will be inaugurated this evening.

I also want to commend the immediate past President, Mr. Nim’ne Monbo and the outgoing executive members of the LICPA for the notable achievements made during their tenure. Your contribution will remain indelible in the developmental journey of the Liberian accountancy profession.

‘Certified Public Accountants’-Liberians

To start off my keynote address, I would like to do something a little different this time: May I have a quick show of hands, of those Liberians with a CPA and who are current members of the LICPA? Thank you.

Alan Greenspan, an economist who served as  Chairman of the Federal Reserve of the United States once said : “  It has been my experience that competency in mathematics, both in numerical manipulations and in understanding its conceptual foundations (accounting), enhances a person’s ability to handle the more ambiguous and qualitative relationships that dominate our day-to-day financial decision-making”

Ladies and gentlemen, I am sure you will agree with me that although the Institute has made commendable progress over the past four years, the new leadership still has a daunting task to train more qualified accountants to meet the growing needs to strengthen accounting, auditing and financial reporting in the public and private sectors of the economy.

The Journey so Far

Coming out of the civil war, Liberia was faced with weak audit and financial reporting and regulation regime, as well as inadequate avenues for professional training of accountants. For example, LICPA had just about 20 members even in 2012. As the nation transitions from ‘post-conflict’ to rebuilding the foundations for economic growth and long term development, the need to have a strong national professional body like LICPA cannot be over-emphasized. A vibrant LICPA is indispensable for the rebuilding of Liberia's institutional and regulatory infrastructure for auditing and financial reporting.

The World Bank is pleased to have been a partner with the Government of Liberia and the leadership of the LICPA in identifying this need and working jointly to chart a new path for the Institute in the developmental process. Pursuing this path was challenging for the Institute and World Bank, considering limited resources and lack of full time staff at the LICPA. In spite of the challenges, LICPA has demonstrated a strong commitment to pursue this path of reforms, essential in making it a viable, relevant and enviable public accounting organization (PAO) in the sub-region.

The World Bank did not relent but provided technical and financial support to LICPA (between 2011 -2014). The Bank’s assistance has led to the following results:

(i)                 Institutional transformation of LICPA through the preparation of a strategic development action plan (DAP) with policy recommendations, including a governance and management structure that meets the requirements of international best practice;

(ii)               Implementation of International Accounting and Auditing Standards and training through the provision of technical assistance for the dissemination of and training the trainers on the said standards, with an aim of developing a pool of competent technicians and professionals;

(iii)             Professionalization of the accountancy profession through the provision of technical assistance for the implementation and upgrade of the ABWA’s Accounting Technicians Scheme in West Africa (ATSWA) examination to a full professional examination, including the development of training materials, training of tutors; and

(iv)             The development of a Public Financial Management (PFM) professional accreditation scheme as a variant of the professional examination, including short-term training for a number of adjunct lecturers of the University of Liberia.

A twinning partnership arrangement with the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Ghana (ICAG) was agreed to help implement these reforms. The twinning arrangement was successfully concluded in 2014.

The LICPA Today

With the support from the World Bank, the collective efforts have yielded so much for the LICPA and the accountancy profession in Liberia, and I believe this is part of the reason why we are here today.  Let me just mention a few of these accomplishments:

(i)                 A sound governance structure that allows for smooth transitioning from one leadership to another is in place;

(ii)               The membership of the Institute has grown from just 20 in 2012 to now 58 in 2015, and more candidates are enrolling in its qualifying professional examinations;

(iii)             For the first time, full professional accountancy exams are offered in Liberia through a memorandum of understanding with the ICAG. This is in addition to the ATSWA exams;

(iv)             The Institute under the twinning arrangement with ICAG, has been able to develop a capacity strengthening strategy, and delivered for the LICPA members a capacity building training on International Standards on Auditing (ISA). Appropriate manuals for the continuous professional development (CPD) program was also developed for the members;

(v)               Liberia now has a modern financial reporting standard, consistent with the International Financial Reporting Standards.

It is also of interest to note that the LICPA’s activities have expanded beyond Liberia -LICPA was presiding over the Accounting Bodies of West Africa (ABWA), representing it in International Federation of Accountants (IFAC).  LICPA was also representing West Africa on the board of the Pan African Federation of Accountants (PAFA).

The Challenges and the Expectations Ahead

Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

As we usher in new leadership at the Institute, it is my sincere hope that the accomplishments so far will be further deepened and the role of accounting further enhanced. I also hope that new enabling initiatives taken by them in the realization of the next generation of reforms at the institute will be fruitful.  Let me mention three areas for the new leadership’s consideration:

First on GROWTH: As I mentioned earlier, there is more room to train qualified accountants for Liberia. The LICPA growth, and indeed the members’ growth can breed healthy competition at both local and international levels. Also, growth is much needed to provide the skills to support the private sector in fulfilling its expectations under the Agenda for Transformation;

Second on DIVERSITY: There is an urgent need to train qualified women accountants in Liberia; and

Finally on OPENING UP FOR COMPETITION: Consider relaxing restrictions on the local market for greater participation by international firms. This will support knowledge transfer and help develop the members of the profession to meet international competition in Liberia and beyond.

Conclusion

In closing, I would like to express   my appreciation to everyone for holding their fort and playing their roles in the accountancy profession for Liberia. A special vote of thanks to the out-going leadership of the LICPA. The World Bank would like to assure the Government of Liberia and Liberia Institute of Certified Public Accountants that it remains fully committed to working towards the development of the accountancy profession and practice in Liberia as the new leadership takes office today.

Congratulations to the new leadership and best wishes for every success.

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