ICMA Pakistan providing useful input for the promotion of accounting profession
Must need of visible policy to hold up professional accounting education and strategies
Interview with Mr Aamir Ijaz Khan — Executive Director, ICMA Pakistan
PAGE: Kindly tell me something about yourself and ICMA Pakistan:
Aamir Ijaz Khan: By profession, I am a Fellow Cost and Management Accountant and have on my credit around 20 years of diversified experience in the areas of Client Servicing, Project Implementation, Business Repositioning, Financial Management and Compliance. I am also a SAP, FICO Certified Consultant. Prior to joining ICMA Pakistan as Executive Director, I was serving as Head of Quality Assurance at M/s. Innovative Pvt. Ltd. I had also worked as Audit MIS Expert (Punjab) in a World Bank funded project named “Project to Improve Financial Reporting & Auditing” (PIFRA) and as Executive Financial Accountant at Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited (SNGPL).
At ICMA Pakistan, I held a number of positions including Chairman of Lahore Branch Council (LBC) during the period from 2011 to 2013. Being a pioneer member of Quality Assurance Board of ICMA Pakistan, I remained a vocal participant for the first four years of its inception. I also served ICMA Lahore Toastmasters Club as its Founder President.
Currently, I am a member of the Management Committee of MENSA International – Pakistan Chapter. I am also a Certified Director, registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP). As a professional trainer and motivational speaker, I have conducted a number of training sessions and workshops. I have contributed various papers on national and international forums on themes of Growth Dynamics of Pakistani Services Sector, Pakistan economy, economic sectors’ strategic dynamics, budgetary measures etc.
As far as ICMA Pakistani is concerned, it is one of the premier professional institutes of accountants, established in 1951 with the name and title of ‘Pakistan Institute of Industrial Accountants (PIIA). The institute received its charter under the Cost and Management (CMA) Act, 1966 of the Parliament. Later, it was renamed as the ‘Institute of Cost and Management Accountants of Pakistan’. Under the CMA Act, 1966, ICMA Pakistan has been entrusted with the responsibility to provide education, examine competencies and confer internationally recognized post-graduate professional certifications of Associate Cost and Management Accountant (ACMA) and Fellow Cost and Management Accountant (FCMA). ICMA Pakistan is the founding member of International Federation of Accountants (IFAC) since 1977; Confederation of Asia and Pacific Accountants (CAPA) since 1980; South Asia Federation of Accountants (SAFA) since 1984 and the only current participant of International Integrated Reporting Council (IIRC) in Pakistan. The Institute has over 7,000 members, out of which more than 1,000 members are serving abroad. These members are serving at high-profile positions such as CEOs, CFOs, COOs, CIAs, Company Secretaries, Financial Analysts, Public Practitioners, Management Consultants, etc, hence making significant contributions towards business growth and economic development. Over the years, the Management Accountants produced by the Institute have met the requirements of industry and business over the years as they are trained to turn knowledge into value addition.
PAGE: What are the professional bodies doing to ameliorate the image of Pakistan in the world?
Aamir Ijaz Khan: The professional accounting bodies are playing their due role in presenting a better image of Pakistan at the global professional platforms. I would confine myself to ICMA Pakistan as the leading professional body as the regulator of management accounting profession in Pakistan. ICMA Pakistan is the founding member of International Federation of Accountants (IFAC) since 1977; Confederation of Asian and Pacific Accountants (CAPA) since 1980; South Asian Federation of Accountants (SAFA) since 1984 and the only current participant of International Integrated Reporting Council (IIRC) in Pakistan. ICMA Pakistan is actively engaged with these accounting and professional bodies to promote the accounting profession around the globe. Our members regularly participate in their meetings and conferences and provide useful input with regard to the accounting profession and also taking up different tasks related to the uplift of the profession. The participation of our representatives in these international professional forums help present a good image of the country to the world. Lets’ take the example of South Asian Federation of Accountants (SAFA). Last year, our President, Mr. Zia ul Mustafa was elected as its Vice President and hopefully in 2020 he would become the President of SAFA – a regional forum of accountants from South Asian countries. At the SAFA level, ICMA Pakistan is playing an active role in promoting the accounting profession with the cooperation of other members of SAFA i.e. Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka and Nepal.
PAGE: Do you presume there are ample employment opportunities for the professionals in Pakistan?
Aamir Ijaz Khan: The professionals, especially the accountants’ community, have always remained in demand in business and industry in view of technical nature of tasks performed by them that requires high quality of practice and experience. With the advancement in technology and emergence of robotic accounting and blockchain technology, there is a growing apprehension among the professional accountants that technology would impact their employability with a minimal and restricted role in organizations. Though the concern is valid, time is the best judge as we have observed few decades back that when the computers emerged, followed by ERP system and cloud computing technology, similar concerns were raised but the significance of professional accountants and auditors in organizations globally remained high, though their role have evolved with the passage of time. I think that as time will pass, the professional accountants would adapt themselves to these technological advancements, with a more contributory role to be played by the professional accounting bodies in creating awareness and imparting required skills in their members. There is also a growing global demand for freelance professional accountants who offer their technical expertise in different operational matters such as tax and investment consultancy. Furthermore, with increasing importance on Public Financial Management (PFM) the role of professional accountants in public sector organizations is also being expanded.
I think that accounting professionals should now move to public sector for employment instead of relying on private jobs. As far as Pakistan is concerned, there is good prospect for employment of professionals as the country is gradually moving towards economic stability and prosperity. I would confine myself to the profession of management accountancy.
Being a management accountant, I foresee a bright future in Pakistan for the dynamic role of management accountants. They, by virtue of their professional expertise and acumen are well poised to serve the society at large. In government, the management accountants can assist in policy making; cost analysis and planning of PSDP projects; financial and managerial reengineering of operationally sick units; tariff setting, tax rationalization, and as consultants in CPEC- related projects.
In corporate sector, a management accountant is like a brain in the human body, which diagnoses the real problems of businesses that hamper their growth and development, and then suggest remedies by putting in place an effective control mechanism.
PAGE: What are your views about the use of technology in professional education?
Aamir Ijaz Khan: The rapid transformation in technology is having far reaching impact and imprint not only on individuals but also on organizations and society as a whole and professional education is not an exception. Teaching and learning strategies are now moving away from procedural tasks and memorizing professional standards towards a more conceptual and analytical teaching and learning. The teaching and learning methodology have changed visibly through pervasive use of cell phone, internet and other ICT software applications; thus, opening up new vistas of information dissemination and knowledge acquisition for the students and professionals.
ICT- supported education can help promote the acquisition of knowledge and skills that can empower the students and professionals, especially the members of professional accounting bodies for lifelong learning. ICT-supported learning also encourages interaction and cooperation among the students, teachers, and experts regardless of where they are. It also leads to evaluative, creative and integrated learning. The use of technology has further improved the examination and assessment areas by speeding up the procedures and processes that has helped in quick results announcements.
International Education Standard (IES 7) requires all professional accountants to be competent and develop necessary skills to fulfill their professional responsibilities.
ICMA Pakistan is fully cognizant to the need for aligning their students with the latest trends and advancements in the profession as well as technology. Today, we are moving towards Blockchain and Robotic Accounting. Our students need to be familiar with these terminologies and the basics of how to meet the challenges ahead. At the ICMA Pakistan level, we have introduced Computer-Based Examinations (CBE) 100 percent at the Operational Level and 50 percent at the Managerial Level. The Practical Modules after completion of courses of studies are also 100 percent computer-based.
PAGE: How do you see the professional education in Pakistan compared to the neighboring countries?
Aamir Ijaz Khan: The professional education is Pakistan is almost similar to that in the neighboring countries. If we look at the SAARC countries i.e. Pakistan, India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, two main streams are visible i.e. Chartered Accountancy and Cost and Management Accountancy. The majority of the members of the professional accounting representing these two streams are pre-dominant in both the public and private sector in the respective countries.
In Nepal, however, there is only one stream of Chartered Accounting represented by Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nepal (ICAN). A Pakistan Institute of Public Finance Accountants (PIPFA) was constituted in 1993 jointly by the two professional accounting bodies viz. CA Pakistan and ICMA Pakistan along with the Auditor General of Pakistan (AGP). PIPFA is a member of IFAC and such an institution for providing human resource in shape of qualified public finance accountants to the government and public sector organizations is only present in Pakistan. ICMA Pakistan has its representation on the Board of Governors of PIPFA.
PAGE: What must be done to promote professional education in Pakistan?
Aamir Ijaz Khan: I think that all the local professional accounting bodies need to interact frequently and devise strategies on promoting the profession of accountancy in Pakistan by embarking on new ideas and making use of appropriate technology. These bodies should always play their vital role in producing more visible opportunities for the prospective students that they must consider them as the career supporters. In addition to that, a visible policy should be introduced by the government to promote professional education as compare to conventional one because the earlier has more impact, not only on an individual’s life but as a whole on the society.