Disturbingly low pass rate for chartered accountants exam
Johannesburg - A shockingly low 43% of the country’s latest aspiring chartered accountants have passed the SA Institute of Chartered Accountants (Saica) examination.
In an even more concerning outcome, just 24% of the 1 792 black candidates passed Saica’s Assessment of Professional Competence (APC) exam written in December.
The pass rates among all other races were not something to write home about either. The 1 315 white candidates achieved a 64% pass rate, 53% of the 535 Indian candidates passed and 45% of 238 coloured potential chartered accountants passed.
The number of black chartered accountants has remained low in the country, prompting Saica and the government to go on a transformation drive in recent years.
Defending its decision to offer bursaries to only black and coloured students in 2017, Saica revealed that its membership demographics were 12% black, 11% indian, 4% coloured and 73% white.
The results released on Friday capped a constant decline over the past five years.
In 2016, 89% of the candidates passed. The pass rate dropped to 80% in 2017 and then to 68% in 2018, and 57% in 2019.
November saw 3 80 candidates writing the all stakes assessment, and 43% of those passed.
Describing the pass rate as the lowest on record, Saica blamed it on the “unavoidable” postponement of the second sitting from June to November due to Covid-19, among other unfavourable developments.
"This delay meant that the majority of candidates had over 11 months instead of five months between exiting their university degree and writing the second sitting of the ITC (Initial Test of Competence)", Saica said.
"Since the ITC tests, the integrated application of technical competence developed during the academic programme, Saica acknowledges the impact of the postponement on candidates.
“In addition, stress caused by the pandemic and the challenges of working from home could have further affected candidates’ performance.”
The Association for the Advancement of Black Accountants of Southern Africa (Abasa) expressed concern over the results.
Ashley Dicken, Abasa’s president, said it was particularly worrying that the pass rate among African candidates continued to record such astronomical declines.
“While a decrease in the APC pass rate may have been expected due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, it is of particular concern to note a 24% pass rate for black African candidates against an overall national pass rate of 43%,” he said.
“It is further alarming to see a significant decline of 44% in the black African pass rate in comparison with a 12%, 20% and 10% decline for white, indian and coloured pass rates respectively.”
Dicken said Abasa had previously sought intervention for the low pass rate among would-be chartered accountants.
“The declining ITC and APC pass rates for black African candidates have been a historical issue raised by Abasa to various stakeholders.
“Initiatives that have been proposed in the previous years have not shown the desired change,” Dicken said.
Saica said that as part of its commitment to transform the profession, it continued to put initiatives in place to support black and coloured candidates. It said it also sought to “gain a deeper understanding of the reasons for these differential pass rates”.
“The ultimate aim is both continuing to increase the number of African and coloured candidates writing the exam, as well as improving equivalence in pass rates,” said Saica.
Freeman Nomvalo, Saica’s chief executive, encouraged the failed 57% to write again.
“ … I encourage you to continue to work hard and not to give up. As prospective CAs you have several opportunities to pass this exam, and there are support programmes available to assist you," Nomvalo said.