Meeting public sector needs: a new dual CMA/CPFA designation aims to support the federal government's financial management and accountability initiatives.
"CIPFA is one of the leading professional accounting bodies in the United Kingdom and is the only one that specializes in the public services," notes Steve Vieweg, President and CEO of CMA Canada. "Together, CIPFA and CMA Canada have the knowledge and experience to deliver a program for the Canadian market that will satisfy the need for sound and ethical strategic financial management within the Canadian public sector."
Developed through extensive consultation with Charles-Antoine St-Jean, the Comptroller General of Canada, and his staff, the CMA Canada/CIPFA dual designation program will help ensure senior government employees have the right mix of skills and expertise needed to deliver world class public finance services in a professional and accountable manner.
Meeting government objectives
The accounting profession in Canada has traditionally addressed the needs of the private sector; however, the public sector has unique requirements that require attention. There are currently initiatives underway to strengthen financial management and accountability within all three levels of government in Canada. This is particularly noteworthy within the federal government, which is pursuing the following accountability measures:
* Re-establishment of the Office of the Comptroller General of Canada to oversee all government spending;
* Appointment of professionally accredited comptrollers to sign off on new spending in every government department;
* Strengthening internal auditing on a government-wide basis; and
* Implementation of new corporate governance rules for Crown corporations and requiring five-year special audits to be tabled in Parliament.
The CMA/CPFA program delivers an accreditation program that meets the federal government's objectives. First, it delivers a strategic financial management program that is recognized by the private sector for its high quality and relevance. Second, it incorporates course content, readings and assignments that are specifically geared to the public sector, preparing graduates to meet the challenges of senior level positions within the Canadian government. The program will prepare candidates to operate at a high level of competency in all levels of the public sector while being broad enough to enable graduates to function at a high level.
"We are committed to strengthening financial management and accountability across the federal government, including calling for professional qualifications among our senior financial management officials," said Treasury Board President Reg Alcock at the program's launch. "I am pleased that the Secretariat and the Comptroller General have been able to play a strong supporting role in the development of this dual-designation accreditation, which will help ensure that Canada's federal public service remains one of the best in the world."
The public sector program that CMA Canada and CIPFA have developed is very different from the programs provided by other professional accounting bodies in Canada. It is a professional accreditation program with strong and dedicated programs for the public sector, including four mandatory public sector-specific courses that address public sector financial and performance reporting, governance and public policy, public finance, and audit and assurance. The most distinctive aspect of the program is the incorporation of a public sector version of CMA Canada's highly regarded Strategic Leadership Program.
"Our Strategic Leadership Program is unique," said Vieweg. "It focuses on contemporary and emerging strategic management and management accounting practices while developing the communication, interpersonal and leadership skills essential for today's management professional. Building on sound undergraduate business education, the Strategic Leadership Program equips candidates with the best strategic management practices used by today's successful enterprises. An organization's competitive growth strategies--whether they involve introducing new methods, modifying existing ones, or eliminating products or services depending on market opportunities--are the foundation of the program."
Vieweg said the dual CMA/CPFA designation will denote professionals with unique public sector strategic financial management skills. The support of two professional accounting associations having complementary private and public sector programs is another bonus of the program.
Programs to achieve the dual credential
Because the education and experience level of qualified individuals will likely vary considerably among candidates who are in the public sector, three programs to obtain the dual designations have been developed. These programs are:
* Regular Program
* Program for graduates of the federal government's Financial Officer/Internal Auditor Recruitment and Development (FORD/IARD) program
* Executive Fast-Track Program
"The CMA/CPFA accreditation will provide significant management accounting and public finance leadership skills for government financial officials to further increase the efficiency of managing public funds and the level of accountability expected by the public," said Vieweg. "CMA Canada applauds the federal government's efforts to improve comptrollership, and we are pleased to offer this outstanding program as a way of contributing to furthering the government's objectives in this area."
In September 2005, the curriculum for the public sector pilot program was completed and presented to the Comptroller General by CMA Canada. The Comptroller General identified 25 candidates from within the ranks of the Federal Government financial management staff. Some of these candidates already possess the CMA designation, or are graduates from the Federal Government's FORD/IARD program. The pilot courses will be completed in March 2006. Following an evaluation, finalization and translation of the materials into French, a fully bilingual dual designation training program will be launched in September 2006.