CIPFA’s work to improve public financial management, reporting and public audit around the world continues at pace. Bid and programme manager Sara Breen speaks to PF International about training civil servants in Somalia and Somaliland.
Tell us about the project
The World Bank wanted to develop a training programme for government finance professionals in Somalia, specifically the CIPFA International Public Financial Management qualification. Students would be civil servants working in the country’s Ministry of Finance, provincial government departments and line ministries like education and health.
CIPFA, as part of a consortium led by consultancy WYG, put together a proposal and started work back in 2014. The intention was to enable 50% of students to pass CIPFA’s IPFM certificate, which includes modules in financial accounting and management accounting.
How successful were you?
Somalia is an extremely poor country and has a lot of problems, but there are a lot of people in Somalia who are very motivated to change things.
Despite this, in the first round of exams we had a very low pass rate. One problem was that we were not able to select the most suitable students ourselves. Another was language; some students’ English wasn’t sufficient to answer written questions. They were also starting from scratch without a professional accountancy framework to inform them.
How did you respond?
We made a lot of changes after that first round of exams. We don’t provide training directly in Somalia because it is too dangerous, so we work with local institutions, building capacity and developing the skills of their lecturers to deliver the training on our behalf. We then administer the exams ourselves and issue the qualifications.
Initially, our plan was to provide a week’s training to the lecturers, but we found several that were starting at the same level as the students they were teaching, as they didn’t have a professional accounting background.
As a result, we decided to increase training and also created the new role of a tutor mentor. This must be a Somali person who is a qualified accountant with one of the international professional accountancy bodies. Often, people who meet these criteria have dual nationalities and have lived in, say, the US or UK, which means they have very good English and Somali language skills.
We used them to advise the tutors and offer more support and advice to the students, after which we saw a massive jump in the pass rate.
The project ran for three years, and, eventually, about 120 students passed the IPFM certificate. There were a lot of people extremely determined to achieve the CIPFA qualification, which is very valued there.
We’re now hoping to be able to obtain funding to enable students to progress to the next stage of the IPFM – the diploma level – next year. The students are very keen, as achieving the IPFM diploma means they can gain Affiliate membership of CIPFA, which is seen as an important mark of skills and status.
What about Somaliland?
It’s a sensitive political situation, as Somaliland has broken away from Somalia and is self-governing, although it is not internationally recognised.
The 2014 Somalia project was initially intended to cover Somaliland, but because of the political difficulties it was decided to separate that project off.
After our success in Somalia, we started talking to the government of Somaliland about doing the same thing and started that project in April 2017.
Somaliland has had less conflict and is a lot more peaceful. You can get a lot more done. Because of this, we presumed that starting capacity would be higher, but we’re seeing the same pattern. Again, we’re upping the support we provide.
Just as in Somalia, we hope that we will be able to obtain funding to enable successful students to achieve the IPFM diploma. It would be great to continue developing those finance staff who have succeeded.