Figures released by the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (Saica) show that the number of finance graduates taking the Initial Competency Test (ITC) is the first of two exams required to qualify as a Chartered Accountant. (CA) in the country – this year there was a sharp drop of 24%.

Of the 2,946 candidates taking the exam, compared with 3,887 in 2021, concerns were raised about the decline, which comes amid a “shortage” due to rising global demand for accountants studying in South African countries with well-known CA qualifications. (SA). .

Read: A new reality for the accounting profession

“The decline in ITC examinations is alarming, especially at a time when it is in the midst of a global boom in skilled accountants from South Africa,” says Graham Mare, director of financial recruitment finance company Blue Recruiting.

He notes that the number of candidates taking the ITC exam grew by 2022 and grew by 19% in 2020 and by 6% in 2021.

“This year, ITC consumption has fallen by about a quarter, which means the system will produce fewer certified accountants in three to four years,” warns Mare.

“About the potential number of COs who will graduate in 2025 in South Africa [will consequently] falling for such a large number is a concern for me and should be for the whole market. ”

Robert Zwein, head of Saica’s Learning, Development and National Imperatives, says there are various factors that can lead to a decline.

Causes of decline

He notes that one of these factors is that students have to adapt to blended learning at the university during the Covid-19 restrictions over the past two years.

“This is certainly not limited to students applying for a CA (SA).”

“The global consensus is that students have been negatively affected by distance learning problems, and that these consequences will be evident in the results of these problems in education and training for many years to come,” adds Zvane.

According to Professor Nick van der Merwe, coordinator of the CA program at Northwestern University, the fall could be due to the Covid-19 pandemic and poor math results.

“We are also seeing a steady drop in students who qualify to study CA with the worst grades in math in 12th grade that the country has observed for some time. Recruitment is usually declining, and now it has spilled over to the graduate level, ”he says.

“In my opinion, the main reason for the decline was the impact of emergency distance learning and training … this was necessary in connection with the Covid-19 pandemic and relevant government regulations,” adds van der Merwe.

He says universities could not avoid a drop in the number of candidates from the CA.

Strong Saica standards

“Saica maintains a high level of qualification and has not abandoned the ITC standard or changed the scope of competencies,” said van der Merwe.

“There were just fewer students who could successfully qualify for the University of CA in an emergency distance learning and learning environment, despite our best efforts…”

Mare, meanwhile, reiterated his concern about the brain drain from SA’s accounting and auditing.

He warns that the shortage of CA at the local level is exacerbated by the fact that skilled South African professionals are leaving the country to work, especially in the United Kingdom and the Netherlands.

Saica increases the declaration of conformity for CAs and partners [2021]
The level of passing the Saica exams is increasing [2021]

“This does not mean that our CAs are necessarily leaving, however … The world, which is suffering from great resignation, is now waking up to the fact that our ingenious South African CAs can fill vacancies for a fraction of the price while they remain in South Africa, ”he says

“A large number of CA (SA) professionals are already working for remote work.”

Nondumisa Lehutso is a Moneyweb intern.

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