This article was written by Graeme O’Reilly CA (SA), Chairman of SAICA’s Accreditation and Monitoring Committee, and Chairman of the SAICA Working Group responsible for the development of the 2016 Training Programme.

If you were to ask most assessors to tell you what their biggest gripe relating to assessment is, 9 times out of 10 they will refer to the process of assessing Business Ethics (BE) right up there towards the top of their lists.

Historically, BE has garnered several complaints / concerns, including;

  1. What kind of examples must our trainees document?
  2. Why can’t we just assume they have these skills if there are no indications to the contrary?
  3. How on earth do you use the current rating scale to rate something like BE 1 (Honesty)? Surely, you are either honest, or you are not?  You can’t be “Honest with guidance”!
  4. Why is the subject referred to as BE? Only 2 of the tasks relate to ethics and the rest relate predominantly to professional values…

Hopefully the significant revisions to these BE tasks and to the manner in which they are assessed will go a long way towards finding solutions to these concerns.

  1. BE is now referred to as Professional Conduct (PC):

    Much more in keeping with the predominant nature of tasks included in this subject, the name of the subject will now be changed to PC.

    This recognises that the core emphasis of these tasks is on demonstrating professional conduct. Being a member of SAICA requires the whole-hearted adoption of the Code of Professional Conduct.  The 5 fundamental principles around which this Code are centered are key to what it means to actually be a member of SAICA.

    Trainee accountants will need to show that they understand – and live on a day-to-day basis – these principles.  These new PC tasks do not reflect skills that can be learnt or acquired.  They reflect a way of being that is expected of all SAICA members…

  1. PC tasks are no longer rated:

    The SAICA rating scale of 1 to 4 will NOT apply to the assessment of PC tasks. Trainees will still be required to provide evidence that they live these values / principles BUT the evidence will not be rated / scored in the way the evidence for the other professional skills are.

    Examples submitting by trainees as evidence of their understanding of, and living these values will form the basis of a discussion between the trainee and evaluator at every ANA.  Through these examples and the subsequent discussions arising therefrom, the evaluator will be in a position whereby they can determine the extent to which they believe the trainee subscribes to these values.
  1. PC evidence no longer needs to be VERIFIABLE:

    BE evidence, like all the other professional skills evidence had to be POSITIVE (so something that was actually done), SPECIFIC (with reference to a particular event – and not broad and general), and VERIFIABLE (capable of being confirmed by a Reviewer).

    While examples submitted for the new PC tasks will still need to be positive and specific, they DO NOT necessarily need to also be verifiable. Remember that these examples form the basis for a discussion around these values – it is perhaps not so much the example that is important but rather the discussion around whether or not, and if so, how that example demonstrates the principle.

  1. The Reviewer role changes to one of quality control rather than the rating of competence:

    Reviewers will still need to examine examples submitted by trainees demonstrating their buy-in to these fundamental principles. Reviewers will however no longer need to rate the PC evidence, like they do for the other professional skills.  Instead, Reviewers will be required to comment on the degree to which they believe the evidence meets the requirements of SPECIFIC and POSITIVE (and VERIFIABLE, if appropriate).
  1. Minimum requirements in terms of documenting examples apply to PC tasks too:

    The existing requirement that trainees document at least one example of a professional skill during every 2 month period now specifically applies to the PC tasks too. This therefore means that trainees need to document at least 1 example of BOTH a PC task and another professional skills task (so from the ML, PA, or IT tasks) during every 2 months.

Hopefully with the change in emphasis towards showing that they understand, and live, these fundamental values, rather than seeing these tasks as skills that can be learnt – and the associated change in the way the evidence is recorded and evaluated, these significant changes to the existing BE tasks will no longer make these tasks the primary concern for assessors from January 2016 onwards.

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