SAIPA’s online PE beats COVID constraints

South African Institute of Professional Accountants
15 December 2020

SAIPA’s online PE beats COVID constraints

Candidates of the South African Institute of Professional Accountants (SAIPA) completed their professional evaluation (PE) on Saturday, 5 December 2020.

According to Karl Smith, Senior Education, Training and Membership Manager at the Institute, SAIPA employed online technologies to ensure the evaluation took place as scheduled.

“We are proud that we were able to facilitate both our July and December examinations digitally without delay and in a very short time, despite COVID-19 constraints,” he says.

The Institute’s PE marks the end of a trainee member’s initial professional development (IPD) phase. Graduates become full SAIPA members, can practice independently and may bear the designation of Professional Accountant (SA).

Digital initiative
SAIPA has employed both formative and summative online assessments for the past four years and implemented online competency-based PEs during 2020.

This is a much needed and welcome relief for SAIPA candidates, especially with the current pandemic, which poses a very real health concern and adds undue stress to an already pressure-filled event.

Facilitating an online PE further assists some candidates to avoid travelling long distances to examination centres.

“Even before the advent of COVID, we committed to digital transformation to enhance the Institute’s service delivery model, and to become as future-ready in the 4IR era as we expect our members to be,” says Smith.

Careful monitoring
Thomas Nyamvura, IT Manager at SAIPA, says the body’s greatest focus is on verifying the identity of remote candidates and confirming their responses are authentically self-generated.

“We continue to partner with an experienced service provider to ensure all tests are conducted under strict examination conditions through a system of technology-based invigilation,” he reports.

This includes visual identification of candidates and the environment where they take the examination. The computers they use are also monitored throughout the assessment period.

In addition, the system uses embedded artificial intelligence (AI) that identifies significant patterns of deviation from normal assessment behaviour. If detected, these are flagged for review and investigated by SAIPA.

Integrated competency
The actual content of SAIPA’s PE has also been redesigned to align with the competency-based approach prescribed by International Education Standard 6 (IES 6) from the International Accounting Education Standards Board (IESBA).

The PE, therefore, tests a candidate’s technical knowledge, applied skills and professional attributes against internationally accepted accounting proficiency standards.

“We are more interested in candidates demonstrating holistic competence across a spectrum of business and advisory concerns than just achieving a passing grade,” says Professor Rashied Small, CoFE Executive at the Institute’s Centre of Future Excellence.

SAIPA also provides a number of interventions to prepare PE candidates for the evaluation and the experience of taking it online.

The foremost of these is SAIPA’s Project Achiever, a preparatory programme that augments candidates’ training with cognitive and soft skills shown to improve PE pass rates among attendees.

They are also exposed to intermediate and practice tests online to accustom them to the testing process in advance of the live examination.

“We encourage other bodies to adopt digital assessments so that the economy is never short of future-ready professional accountants,” concludes Smith.