With the latest version of the SAICA Training Regulations about to come into effect on the 1st of January 2016, we thought it an opportune moment to reflect on some of the biggest upcoming changes and consider the extent to which they might have some bearing on the assessment of your trainee accountants.
Change number 1: Associate General Accountant – AGA (SA) is launched.
This is quite a significant change to the regulations because all prior reference to CA (SA) needed to be removed. AGA trainees obtain identical practical training experience to CA trainees and from January all references in the regulations to trainees will refer to both AGA and CA trainees.
Obviously with the training programmes being identical, so too will be the related assessment processes used to measure their competence. The introduction of this new qualification will thus have no direct impact on the requirements for assessment, although it does establish 2 different “groups” of trainees – those studying to only get their BCom degree and those studying further.
It is important to thus note that regardless of whether the trainee is a CA trainee or an AGA trainee, the Training Regulations apply equally to both groups. This includes the requirements (and duty) to initiate and complete assessment instruments timeously and correctly.
Change number 2: Removal of group office structures:
All individual office locations offering a training contract will now need to become independently accredited stand-alone offices. National administrative structures (including TCMS administration, payroll administration, and retaining their one national training officer) are still however permissible.
The requirement for each stand-alone Training Office to have its own resident assessors remains.
It is important to note that where a group of Training Offices choose to field one national training officer, there are specific requirements regarding assessors at the stand-alone office that need to be met:
- The assessor must be an employee or partner of the Training Office.
- The assessor must ordinarily reside within a reasonable distance from the office (this suggests that they should be capable of commuting to the Training Office on a daily basis).
- The ratio of 1 assessor to 15 trainees (maximum) must still be maintained at each stand-alone office.
Change number 3: Accreditation for electives can now lapse.
Historically, regulation 5.1 had a Training Office’s accreditation status automatically lapse if that office failed to register any trainee accountants (on any elective) for a continuous period of 12 months.
The new regulation 5.2 now states that in addition to the above, if a Training Office fails to register any trainees on a particular elective (where that office is accredited for more than one elective) for a continuous period of 12 months, the accreditation of that “unused” elective lapses.
This is important for Training Offices who have obtained accreditation for additional electives. Should the office fail to use these electives, the accreditation of that elective will lapse and the office will need to reapply to SAICA in the future should it wish to reinstitute that elective.
Change number 4: Increased consequences for offices that fail to meet the accreditation criteria.
Historically, a Training Office that failed an accreditation site visit (note that this does not apply to self-evaluations) – i.e., scored an overall rating of 4 for that visit – had to send all its assessors on the next SAICA Assessment Refresher Workshop.
Regulation 7.7 has now been expanded to include the requirement that in addition to the assessors having to attend the Assessment Refresher Workshop, all that office’s trainees now need to attend the annual SAICA Trainee Assessment Workshop too.
This is quite a significant change and can have big implications both financially and time-wise for offices that fail their accreditation site visits.
Change number 5: Big change to the extensions process.
Historically, if a trainee got to the end of their contract and they were still not competent in all the tasks, or if they had not yet met their core hours, firms had to enter into an extension period of 6 months. This period of 6 months was fixed and was in no way negotiable – even if the trainee demonstrated their missing competencies or achieved their core hours early on in the extension period. At the end of the 6 month extension the firm could then (at their complete discretion) extend this extension for up to a further 6 months if they wanted or needed to.
Regulation 23.1 now allows for only one extension. This extension must be for a minimum of 6 months, but can be for up to a maximum of 12 months. There is however one very fundamental change; Regulation 23.2 now allows a contract to be discharged prior to the end of the extension period if a trainee has met their core hours or has demonstrated their competence.
Offices do however need to be careful here; Regulation 23.3 now requires the cancellation of a contract when the trainee fails to demonstrate competence by the end of the extension period. There is no opportunity to offer a 2nd extension period like there used to be when a trainee was still not yet competent.