Understanding Accounting and Audit Profession in Kenya

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Overview of Accounting/Auditing career
This career outlook covers all forms of Accounting/Auditing profession including but not limited to:

  1. Industrial accountants;
  2. Forensic accountants;
  3. Certified Public Accountants; CPAs;
  4. Public accountants;
  5. Auditors;
  6. Management accountants;
  7. Corporate accountants;
  8. Tax accountants;
  9. Private accountants;
  10. Internal auditors;
  11. Government accountants and auditors;
  12. Cost accountants

Nature of work for Accountants/Auditors
Accountants and auditors help to ensure that the business entities and other institutions are run efficiently, public records kept accurately, and taxes paid properly and on time.

They analyze and communicate financial information for various entities including companies, individual clients, and government. Beyond carrying out the fundamental tasks of the occupation—preparing, analyzing, and verifying financial documents in order to provide information to clients—many accountants also offer budget analysis, financial and investment planning, information technology consulting, and limited legal services.

Specific Accounting/Auditing tasks:

  • Prepare, examine, and analyze accounting records, financial statements, and other financial reports to assess accuracy, completeness, and conformance to reporting and procedural standards.
  • Compute taxes and prepare tax returns, ensuring compliance with payment, reporting and other tax requirements as per government regulations.
  • Analyze business operations, trends, costs, revenues, financial commitments, and obligations, to project future revenues and expenses or to provide advice.
  • Report to management regarding the finances of establishment.
  • Establish tables of accounts, and assign entries to proper accounts.
  • Develop, maintain, and analyze budgets, preparing periodic reports that compare budgeted costs to actual costs.
  • Develop, implement, modify, and document recordkeeping and accounting systems, making use of current computer technology.
  • Prepare forms and manuals for accounting and bookkeeping personnel, and direct their work activities.
  • Survey operations to ascertain accounting needs and to recommend, develop, and maintain solutions to business and financial problems.
  • Advise management about issues such as resource utilization, tax strategies, and the assumptions underlying budget forecasts.
  • Provide internal and external auditing services for businesses and individuals.
  • Advise clients in areas such as the design of accounting and data processing systems, and long-range tax and estate plans.
  • Investigate bankruptcies and other complex financial transactions and prepare reports summarizing the findings.
  • Represent clients before taxing authorities and provide support during litigation involving financial issues.
  • Appraise, evaluate, and inventory real property and equipment, recording information such as the property’s description, value, and location.
  • Maintain and examine the records of government agencies.
  • Serve as bankruptcy trustees and business valuers.

Work Environment for Accountants/Auditors in Kenya
Most accountants and auditors in Kenya and the larger East Africa region work in a typical office setting. Some may be able to do part of their work at home.

Accountants and auditors employed by public accounting firms, government agencies, and organizations with multiple locations may travel frequently to perform audits in branches, clients’ places of business, or government facilities.

Most accountants and/or auditors usually work for long hours, especially during the reporting seasons or if they are self-employed and have several clients.

Education requirements for Accountants and Auditors in Kenya
Most accountant and auditor positions require at least a bachelor’s degree in Accounting or related business fields.

Masters in Accounting or Business Administration with a bias toward Accounting goes a long way in strengthening ones position or career prospects.

Certification requirements for Accountants and Auditors in Kenya

  • Professional recognition through certification, or a designation like CPA (K) and ACCA, provides a distinct advantage in the job market. Certification can attest to professional competence in a specialized field of Accounting and Auditing.
  • Accountants and auditors can seek credentials from a wide variety of professional societies in and beyond the Kenyan jurisdiction. Most credentials are appreciated locally by the Kenyan employment world. These include:

Certified Management Accountant (CMA):

  • Designated to applicants who complete a bachelor’s degree or who attain a minimum score or higher on specified graduate school entrance exams.
  • Applicants must pass the exams and meet the set educational and experience requirements.
  • The exam covers areas such as financial statement analysis, working-capital policy, capital structure, valuation issues, and risk management.

Certified Internal Auditor (CIA):

  • Designated to graduates from accredited colleges and universities who pass the exams and meet the set educational and experience requirements.
  • Offered in more than 95 countries globally. Exam is offered in four parts covering the internal audit activity’s role in the analysis and information technology; and business management skills.

Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA).

  • Awarded by ISACA. Key due to the increase in demand for professionals possessing information systems audit, control and security skills.
  • Designated upon candidates who pass the exams and meet the set educational and experience requirements.

Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE):

  • Designated for forensic or public accountants involved in fraud prevention, detection, deterrence, and investigation.
  • Covers financial transactions, legal elements of fraud, fraud investigation, and criminology & ethics.
  • To obtain the designation one must pass the exams and meet the set educational and experience requirements.

Certified Financial Analyst (CFA):

  • Awarded by the CFA Institute as self-study curriculum which develops and reinforces a fundamental knowledge on investment principles in the fields of portfolio management and investment analysis.
  • Three levels of examination verify a candidate’s ability to apply these principles across all areas in investment decision making process.

There are many other professional qualifications and certifications that can be pursued by individuals interested in deepening their skills and making themselves more marketable in the employment world.

Accountants and auditors in Kenya work in both private industry and government sector with a significant number opting to be self-employed.

A large number are licensed CPAs or ACCA’s while a significant portion is equally pursuing similar certifications.

Most accountants and auditors work in the Kenyan urban areas, where public accounting firms and central or regional offices of businesses are concentrated.

Some individuals with backgrounds in accounting and auditing are full-time college and university lecturers; others teach part time while working as self-employed accountants.

Job Forecast:
There are positive career prospects for the Accountants and Auditor fields in the years to come resulting from an expanding Kenyan and the East African economy characterized by the entrance of a number of multinationals in the Kenyan space together with an increasing Start-up culture and not forgetting the emergence and growth of the Small & Medium Enterprises (SME).

This Coupled with stricter accounting and auditing regulations, paint a positive career picture into the future of Accounting career.

As businesses grow the volume and complexity of information reviewed by accountants and auditors regarding costs, expenditures, taxes, and internal controls will expand as well.

Globalization (current and on-going) of businesses also has led to more demand for accounting expertise and services related to international trade and accounting rules and international mergers and acquisitions.

Efforts to fight corruption and make government agencies more efficient and accountable will increase demand for the Accounting/Audit professionals as well.

The need for Forensic Accountants is and will be on the rise in the future due to the focus on increased numbers of financial crimes such as embezzlement, bribery, and securities fraud in Kenya. Their expertise will be much needed so as to detect illegal financial activity by individuals, companies, and organized crime cartels.

Key Skills:

  • Numerical ability in problem solving.
  • Active Listening
  • Time Management – self and others
  • Critical Thinking- use of logic to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions or approaches to problems.
  • Monitoring – ability to monitor/assess self-performance, others, and organizations to make improvements or take corrective action.
  • Good Judgment and Decision Making – Considering the relative costs and benefits of potential actions and options to choose the most appropriate one.
  • Active Learning – Understanding the implications of new information for both current and future problem-solving and decision-making.
  • Reading Comprehension – Understanding written sentences and paragraphs in work related documents.
  • Systems Analysis – Determining how a system should work and how changes in conditions, operations, and the environment will affect outcomes.
  • Systems Evaluation — Identifying measures or indicators of system performance and the actions needed to improve or correct performance, relative to the system’s pre-set goals.
  • Coordination – Adjusting actions in relation to others’ actions.
  • Management of Financial Resources – Determining how money will be spent to get the work done, and accounting for the same.
  • Social Perceptiveness – Being aware of your social environment and it’s reactions
  • Operations Analysis – Analyzing needs and product requirements to create a design.
  • Strong interpersonal and communication skills – Talking to others to convey information effectively.
  • Complex Problem Solving – Identifying complex problems and reviewing related information to develop and evaluate options and implement solutions.
  • Learning Strategies – Selecting and using training/instructional methods and procedures appropriate for the situation when learning or teaching new concepts.
  • Writing – Communicating effectively in writing as appropriate for the needs of the audience or social environment.

Abilities Needed:

  • Problem Sensitivity – The ability to tell when something is wrong or is likely to go wrong. It does not involve solving the problem.
  • Deductive Reasoning – The ability to apply general rules to specific problems to produce answers that make business sense.
  • Oral Expression and clarity – The ability to communicate information and ideas clearly in speaking so others will understand.
  • Information Ordering – The ability to arrange things or actions in a certain order according to a specific rule or set of rules
  • Mathematical Reasoning – The ability to choose the right mathematical methods or formulas to solve a problem.
  • Written Comprehension and Expression – The ability to read and understand information and ideas presented in writing and also to communicate information and ideas in writing so others will comprehend.
  • Inductive Reasoning – The ability to combine pieces of information to form general rules or conclusions (ability to find relationship among seemingly unrelated events).
  • Oral Comprehension – The ability to listen to and understand information and ideas presented through spoken words and sentences.
  • Flexibility of Closure – The ability to identify or detect a known pattern (a figure, object, word, or sound) that is hidden in other distracting material.
  • Perceptual Speed – The ability to quickly and accurately compare similarities and differences among sets of letters, numbers, objects, pictures, or patterns. The things to be compared may be presented at the same time or one after the other. This ability also includes comparing a presented object with a remembered object.
  • Selective Attention – The ability to concentrate on a task over a period of time without being distracted.

Knowledge Required

  • Mathematical and statistics
  • English Language
  • Economics and Accounting –Knowledge of the principles and practices, the financial markets, banking and the analysis and reporting of financial data.
  • Customer and Personal Service – Including customer needs assessment, meeting quality standards for services, and evaluation of customer satisfaction.
  • Computers and Electronics – Accounting applications and programmes.

It is worth noting that many senior corporation executives in Kenya and within the region have a background in accounting, internal auditing, or finance.

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