Thriving in Disruptive Times: Why your Business Needs a CPA

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Now more than ever, Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) need the vital services of Certified Public Accountants (CPAs) in order to survive and thrive in very challenging times.

Uganda’s economy is made up of the following sectors: Agriculture 24.2%; Industry 29.5% and Services 46.2%[1]. SMEs account for 49% of the service sector, 33% of commerce and trade, 10% of manufacturing and 8% of other fields. According to the Uganda Investment Authority (UIA), over 2.5 million Ugandans are employed in the SME sector and account for approximately 90% of the entire private sector, generating over 80% of manufactured output that contributes 20% of Uganda’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP)[2].

Enterprise Uganda estimates that about 70% of the SMEs in Uganda collapse within 24 months for reasons related to financing and lack of basics in enterprise management, bookkeeping and accounting[3].

Accounting plays an essential role in economic development. High-quality business reporting is key to improving transparency, facilitating the mobilisation of domestic and international investment, fostering investor confidence and promoting financial stability. Accountants, therefore, contribute to the growth of individual companies, support and sustain non-profit organizations, and assist governments in achieving their economic and social objectives.

Professional accountants can provide SMEs with the professional support needed to manage their costing, expenditure, cash flow, and provide information that can support monitoring and control functions of businesses.

However, it has been noted that some businesses are receiving bad advice and poor service from rogue and incompetent advisors[4]. Quack Accountants with minimal or no professional accountancy training are not able to help businesses to grow and thrive. It is therefore vital that SMEs check that their accountant is fully qualified before using their services.

Who then is an Accountant?

There are a lot of people who call themselves accountants even if they have no training or professional qualification to back this up. This leaves SMEs at risk of hiring someone who is not fully qualified nor regulated and without the necessary skills to manage the finances of the SME.  An accountant is a person who is not only qualified but also is regulated by a professional body. If a person is professionally trained but is not regulated, then technically that person is not an accountant.

The Accountants Act, 2013, section 1 defines an “accountant” as a person who is enrolled as a member of the Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Uganda (ICPAU). Section 25 of the same Act sets out the eligibility requirements for enrolment as a full member or an associate member of the Institute.

Under Section 5(2) of the Accountants Act, 2013, a person is eligible for full membership of the Institute if he or she;

  • passes the qualifying examinations conducted by the public accountants’ examinations board (PAEB) and completes the practical training prescribed by the Council; or
  • is a member of a society or an institute of accountants approved by the Council as being a society or institute with a status equivalent to that of the Institute[5].

A person is eligible for membership as an associate member of the Institute, under Section 5(6) of the same Act, if he or she passes a qualifying examination conducted by the examinations Board but does not have practical training prescribed by the Council.

Who is a Practising Accountant?

Sections 27 and 28 of the Accountants Act, 2013 provide that a person who has been enrolled as a full member under Section 25, may apply to be registered as a practising accountant and issued with a Certificate of Practice.

Under section 34 of the Accountants Act 2013, only practising accountants are entitled to offer services involving audit, verification and certification of financial statements or related reports, or to render any other services that amount to practising accountancy.

It is a criminal offence to practise accountancy in Uganda without a Certificate of Practice in Uganda. Section 35 of the Accountants Act, 2013 prescribes stringent penalties against practising accountancy without a Certificate of Practice, including imprisonment of up to two years and ten months.

It is important to remember that accountancy practice is a regulated field with strict entry requirements to protect the public interest.

Why Use Services of a Practising Accountant?

  • A Practising Accountant is listed on the register of practising accountants which makes it possible to trace, verify or report him or her to their regulator.[6]
  • Practising accountants and their accounting firms are inspected annually to confirm that they continue to meet acceptable standards of accountancy practice.
  • In addition, the Quality Assurance Board conducts mandatory quality assurance reviews to ensure that all practising accountants exhibit professionalism in their work and provide high-quality accountancy services.
  • Only the accountancy services of a licensed practising accountant or their accounting firm can be legally recognized.
  • All Practising Accountants are subjected to the Code of Ethics of Professional Accountants, and can, therefore, be disciplined by the ICPAU Disciplinary Committee for any professional misconduct.
  • Practising Accountants are innovative and strategic thinkers who are well respected for their integrity, commitment to excellence and dedication to satisfy their client’s business and financial needs.
  • When you hire a licensed Practising Accountant, you can be confident they have met strict licensing and ethical requirements. These requirements distinguish them from “quack accountants”.

What are the Unique Services offered by CPAs

CPAs work in all sectors of Uganda’s economy which include public practice, business and industry, public sector and academia/education.

Accountants offer various services such as audit and other assurance services, accounting and bookkeeping, taxation, forensic accounting & investigation, finance, risk management, transaction advisory, management consulting and insolvency practice, amongst others.

All the organisations that operate in the various sectors of Uganda’s economy are encouraged to use the services of CPAs. Just like a patient seeks advice concerning their health from a qualified medical doctor, so too should businesses seek professional advice from a CPA. A CPA will help steer your business through a crisis.

In Uganda, the role of regulating the accountant rests squarely with ICPAU. By law, ICPAU is mandated to regulate and maintain the standard of accountancy in Uganda; and to prescribe and regulate the conduct of CPAs and practising accountants in Uganda[7]. To this end ICPAU annually publishes a list of its members, practising accountants and accounting firms.

By Julie Adrale
Head of Investigation and Disciplinary, ICPAU


[1] https://www.worldbank.org/en/news/press-release/2020/02/13/uganda-economic-update
[2] https://www.ugandainvest.go.ug/smes-driving-economy/
[3] https://www.newvision.co.ug/medium-enterprises-smes-supplement
[4] https://www.busiweek.com/icpau-stages-pro-bono-services-amidst-quack-accountants-persistence/
[5] Under the East African Community Mutual Recognition Agreement, ICPAU recognises the Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Kenya, Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Rwanda, the National Board of Accountants and Auditors of Tanzania and the Ordre Des Professionnels Comptables Du Burundi as Institutes with a status equivalent to that of ICPAU.
[6] Search for Practising Accountants at https://icpauportal.com/index.php/external_portal/practitioners
[7] Section 4 of the Accountants Act, 2013

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