Continuing Professional Development (CPD) has long been a requirement for most, if not all, professionals, including, for example, the medical profession.

Just as it would be daunting to consult a heart surgeon with a stack of unopened medical journals on his coffee table, so too would it be daunting to place one’s faith in a CA(SA) unable to offer services based on the profession’s most recent technical and technological advances.

SAICAs CPD policy, which closely accords with international accounting standards, requires members to log 120 hours of CPD over the three-year period from 1 January 2006 to 31 December 2008. For members that joined SAICA during the course of that period, the CPD requirement is only effective from the year following the year of registration with SAICA.

Importantly, SAICAs policy does not specify those courses that are required to meet the CPD requirement. That’s because chartered accountants are involved in a wide range of industries and skills areas. SAICA therefore encourages lifelong learning for the areas in which each member is involved.

The pace of changes that affect the accountancy profession,  as well as every other industry in which CAs(SA) are employed, is frighteningly rapid. In an effort to prevent members being overwhelmed by the pace and volume of these changes and advancements, SAICA encourages its members that hold the CA(SA) designation to maintain high levels of professional competence and confidence by complying with CPD.

CPD enhances professional skills and knowledge in order to render the best possible service to clients, and thereby uphold the reputation of the accountancy profession. CAs(SA) have a duty to themselves, the broader economy and to the CA community to protect the competence and confidence requirements of the brand that has been established over many years.

The focus of CPD is to prompt members to ask: “What can I do to further my understanding, knowledge and skills in order better to serve my clients, increase my reputation, grow my business, and do justice to my many years of education and training? Those are years that earned for me this esteemed designation; that will ultimately maintain and enhance the reputation of all CAs(SA)”.

Members have the option of recording their CPD on the SAICA online recording system, which can be accessed on www.saica.co.za, or by declaring self-compliance, also available on the website. Members that declare self compliance open themselves up to the possibility of a review. This process is in line with what is being done by the other Global Accounting Alliance (GAA) institutions, such as the Hong Kong Institute of Certified Public Accountants and The Scottish Institute of Chartered Accountants.

In South Africa, members over the age of 60 years will receive exemption from CPD, unless they are still professionally active. The onus is on members to inform SAICA that they are still professionally active.

For the first CPD cycle applicable to CAs(SA), which will close on 31 December 2008, after having commenced on January 1 2006, SAICA adopted an input-based approach, which will be extended into the next three-year cycle commencing 1 January 2009.

The input-based approach covers members’ efforts towards obtaining the required CPD points – essentially 120 hours over the three-year cycle. This differs from the output-based approach, which considers skills, knowledge and values gained by members in obtaining their CPD points. International accounting standards allow for either approach, or a combination of both. SAICA is researching the impact of adopting an output-based approach, which will be considered after the three-year cycle ending in 2011.

For now till the end of the year, members are encouraged to log their CPD hours earned over the past two-and-a-half years, thereby complying with SAICA’s CPD policy.