FiRe Awards

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A GAUGE FOR COMPLIANCE TRENDS AMONG CORPORATE FIRMS

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FiRe Awards get bigger, better

From humble beginnings in 2011, the Financial Reporting (FiRe) Awards are growing in leaps and bounds. Championed by the Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Uganda (ICPAU), the awards are aimed at improving the quality of financial and business reporting in the country by encouraging organisations to adopt global financial reporting standards and best practices.

Derrick Nkajja, the chief executive officer of ICPAU explains why the awards were started.

We (ICPAU) are mandated by law to promote the standards of accountancy in Uganda. So, after setting up international standards of accountancy in the country, we needed to adopt the implementation of these standards," he explains.

"In 2011, we started the FiRe awards to look at how companies in the country are using the standards which we have set," Nkajja says.

The awards provide a platform for organisations to benchmark their reports against those of their peers. Other aims of the awards are to encourage effective communication of financial and business information, showcase best practices in financial reporting, promote and institutionalize transparency, integrity, and accountability in the corporate reporting process. Nkajja says: "You cannot list on a stock exchange if your financial reporting is lukewarm.

One of the aims of the awards, therefore, is to promote good financial reporting as a prerequisite for raising funds on the capital markets."

The awards were also started to create public awareness of valid and objective measures of performance and promote a better understanding of the results achieved, create public awareness of the purposes of organisations, how they function and their achievements and to cultivate and maintain relationships with participants.

Membership

The awards are open to all organisations that produce annual reports within Uganda. According to ICPAU, each annual report is judged against itself, based on its success in communicating its organisation's story. Fredrick Kibedi, the chairman of the FiRe Awards

says the awards have come a long way from their inception in 2011. "When we started, people were not exactly sure about what we were doing. Many had worries that their

documentation, meant for only shareholders, would end up becoming public information," he says. He adds: "Over the years, the awards have become an invaluable for businesses

looking for financiers, alliances and partnerships with foreign companies and for benchmarking the best practices around the world."

Evaluation criterion

The evaluation of entries goes through three levels. The first level review involvesthe evaluation of the annual and financial reports by a technical team. "Each report is reviewed and awarded marks by at least two independent panellists. The panellists thenprepare summary reports to justify the basis of the marks allocated to each evaluatedreport.

The panellists meet to discuss their results and any major anomalies noted duringthe evaluation process," says Nkajja. The best entries from this level then move onto a second level of evaluation.

At this level, the panellists make certain that the very best in each category are earmarked. The re-evaluation is done by a panel of experts, who haveexpertise in the various award categories. At the third and last level of review, the winners and runners up are selected and approved by the committee. Nkajja says overtime, the awards have given them invaluable insights on how companies are applying accountancy standards in making financial reports.

"Some small companies have been struggling with the standards for the bigger firms yet they can use thoseof SMEs, while others do not apply the standards consistently," Nkajja notes. He says he is proud of the growth of the awards.

Over the years, several organisations have walked home with accolades for their outstanding performances at the FiRe awards. They include Centenary Rural Development Bank Limited, National Water and Sewerage Corporation, Brac Uganda, Umeme Limited, Stanbic Bank Uganda Limited and Lion Assurance.

"We have seen new companies and organisations entering the competition. The awards have become an important benchmarking tool for many businesses, as they learn from the best. Many have adopted good practices after these awards and their businesses have improved," Nkajja says.

Investment opportunities

Kibedi says with the awards growing bigger and better, this bodes well for the prospects of Uganda's business climate and as a destination for investment. "We have given participants

feedback, which they would have paid for from a consultant. Many have come back to us and told us that the awards have opened new financing windows for them," he says. Kibedi says there is more enthusiasm among firms that are entering the awards, making Uganda a leader in financial reporting in the region. "I see a whole economy based on financial reporting. With increase in financial reporting, investment opportunities will increase as more companies come to Uganda. Because of sound financial reporting, there will also be an increase in opportunities for assurance services," he says

Lion Assurance scoops top award

By Benon Ojiambo

 To many other companies, on the evening November 10 was ordinary, but to Lion Assurance Company Limited, it was different. The Financial Reporting (FiRe) awards 2016 were held at the Kampala Serena Hotel. Lion Assurance scooped the Report of the Year (Gold) award, emerging the overall winner, beating Stanbic and Centenary banks that walked away with Silver and Bronze categories, respectively.

 

Not only did the insurer emerge victorious, but also won other awards in different categories, like both Insurance services and communication award categories. The company was also recognised under the sustainability reporting award category. The annual FiRe awards that were first organised in 2011 aim at promoting the best practices in financial reporting, in compliance with international fi nancial reporting standards as prescribed by the Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Uganda (ICPAU).

 

They are organised by ICPAU, in partnership with the Capital Markets Authority (CMA) and Uganda Securities Exchange (USE). Frank Kibedi, the FiRe awards chairperson says since the awards were initially held in 2011, Lion assurance has been a regular participant. Kibedi also says the company has been improving on its financial reporting year after year.

The company draws its strength from the strong interaction of the business units in the various countries to ensure that the insurance solutions it offers are world class. According to Joan Musiime Mwondha, the company's financial controller, winning the accolade is a testimony of their commitment to presentation of financial and non-fi nancial information in a comprehensive and easy to understand form that is useful to all our stakeholders.

"Our financial report was elaborate, covering various aspects of corporate governance, corporate social responsibility, sustainability reporting, risk management, and compliance with reporting requirements of International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS), Ugandan Companies Act, and Ugandan Insurance Act," Mwondha notes. Mwondha explained that both the company's fi nancial and nonfinancial information was presented hinged on the theme At the Cutting Edge of Insurance through Continuous Innovation.

She says the report gives the readers an overall picture of the company's performance over the past five years, performance in relation to the budget and industry, key industry developments, a discussion on the micro and macro - economic factors likely to impact on our performance.

According to Dorothy Mirembe, the marketing assistant at the company, they are looking forward to serving their clients better with introduction of innovative e-service platforms and roll-out of unique insurance risk solutions that will meet the market's insurance needs.

 

PostBank comes of age

By Jacky Achan

Post Bank Limited was this year recognized for good corporate governance reporting at the FiRe (Financial Reporting) Awards. Supervised by the Bank of Uganda, the central bank and national banking regulator, PostBank Uganda in the corporate governance category were 2nd runner up. Umeme Limited were 1st runner up while National Social Security Fund emerged winner of the category.

 ost ank ganda recognised for good orporate overnance eporting Post Bank Uganda recognised for good Corporate Governance Reporting

 

In addition to the award promoting financial reporting excellence, it has and continued to foster sound corporate governance practices and enhances corporate social investment and environmental reporting and PostBank got recognised this year in corporate governess. According to Jackson Mwesigwa, the general manager in charge of finance and administration, the Corporate Governance Award means a lot to PostBank.

First and foremost because it means that they have complied with all governance requirements in terms of laws, statutes, standards, guidelines and regulations. "This is no easy task and it implies that our framework of rules and practices is up to date with accountability, fairness and transparency in our company's relationship with all our stakeholders. Therefore, people are able to follow and understand our decision-making process.

This means they will be able to clearly see how and why a decision was made," he says. Mwesigwa says their participation in the FiRe Awards is not an option, but rather a priority because of the significant role of the accountant in business today. "Participation helps us improve each day and year after year.

Indeed, the feedback from ICPAU has been useful to us not only as individuals, but also as an organisation. What we like about the awards is the level of benchmarking across the board irrespective of the industry," he says.

As of December 2012, PostBank Uganda was small, but growing credit institution whose assets were estimated at $54 million (about sh135.7 billion).

In February 1998 PostBank Uganda Limited was incorporated in accordance with the Communications Act of 1997 to take over the operations of the former Post Office Savings department. PostBank Uganda was incorporated under the Companies Act in February 1998 as a limited liability company.

PostBank Uganda is wholly owned by the Government of Uganda. As of May 2014, PostBank Uganda maintained a branch network of 32 fixed branches and 17 mobile banking units, in total 49 branches

 

 FINCA wins microfinance accolade

 By Benon Ojiambo

For Alejandro Jakubowicz, the interim chief executive officer of FINCA Uganda Limited, bagging an award is a fulfillment of two of our core values; "Innovation and continuously improving" as well as excelling at what we do," he said.

At the recently held 2016 Financial Reporting (FiRe) awards held under the theme Building Stakeholder Confidence; the Power of Numbers, FINCA Uganda Limited topped the Microfinance Deposit Institutions (MDI) category, beating EFC Uganda Limited that won recognition for achievement. Justifying why the micro finance institution won the accolade, Jakubowicz said they have continuously emerged winners in the FiRe awards due to their consistency in working on areas that need improvement.

 

In 2014, FINCA also  won the "most improved institution in the industry" in financial reporting.Established as a microfinance institution in Jinja district in 1992, the institution grew to be licensed as an MDI in 2004 thus becoming the first MDI to be regulated by Bank of Uganda under the MDI Act of 2003.

It is a subsidiary of FINCA International, which serves nearly two million clients in 22 countries across the world.Currently, the institution offers savings, loans and money transfer services to its clients across our 27 networked branches and Points of Service (POS) agencies countrywide through a technology-enabled multi-channel delivery system.

It also offers financial literacy, especially among the youth through the Smart Start programme, through which the youth are equipped with basic financial management skills, such as budgeting, saving and investment alongside other life skills, such as soap and candle making."We offer a collection of life-changing financial products and services that are intended to serve the various needs of our customers in a fast, secure and transparent manner.

Our service delivery is further enhanced by our multi-channel system, which is technology driven to ensure effective turnaround time and convenience to the customer," reads a statement released from the institution."Stakeholders' and more so, Investors' trust, confidence and support is never a given.

It is earned," Jakubowicz said. He explained that the award is indeed a manifestation of FINCA Uganda's good financial reporting strength and weight since all stakeholders are now demanding more transparency in the entire reporting process.  "We endeavour to comply with international financial reporting standards and regulatory reporting to strengthen existing and at the same time create new relationships," he added.

Besides this, their 23-year experience in the Ugandan market puts the institution in a better position of understanding their clients more than any other microfinance institution and being able to provide relevant financial solutions that have a positive impact on the lives of those accessing them.

Jakubowicz said they shall further concentrate on building trust from their clients, something he says shall enable them build a sustainable business and extend better services to their clients, especially the low income entrepreneurs in the country. "In our quest, we have made adjustments to some of our products and services and we continue to innovate in order to remain relevant in the financial services sector," he said.

 

BRAC committed to women and children in Uganda

By Benon Ojiambo

Founded in Bangladesh in 1972, BRAC is a global leader in creating large-scale opportunities for the poor in the 11 countries in which it operates. These include but not limited to Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar, Uganda, Tanzania and South Sudan. The organisation is touching the lives of an estimated 135 million people in those countries.

It is dedicated to alleviating poverty by empowering the poor to bring about change in their own lives through its highly successful, fully integrated model for poverty alleviation that includes services in microfinance, education, healthcare, agriculture, social and economic empowerment, legal rights training and disaster preparedness.

Since it opened its doors in Uganda in 2006, BRAC Uganda has grown to become one of the largest and recognised Non-Governmental Organisations in the country.

"BRAC Uganda's integrated approach aims to increase the ability of poor clients to productively use their microloans to augment their incomes, build their assets, and stimulate economic and social development within their communities," Atiqur Rahman, BRAC' acting country representative to Uganda.

Rahman said BRAC Uganda has expanded its microfinance-multiplied program across Uganda with an aim to touch the lives of over 4.4 million Ugandans through its 155 branches across 80 districts in the country with around 2,500 staff, 85% of whom are women

"We provide an ecosystem of support services, focused primarily on poor women and girls, including access to finance, agriculture, livestock and poultry, health, adolescent development & youth education, early childhood development and social enterprises," he said in an email to the New Vision. Additionally, 85% of about 2,500 staff they employ are women.

It operates a microfinance programme provides financial services in 65 districts serving a total of 186,000 borrowers, a health programme working in 68 districts, through 4,070 health entrepreneurs, youth empowerment platform: providing 200,000 adolescent girls in 19 districts with trainings on sexual and reproductive health and life skills

Such efforts have earned the organisation recognition and awards across the country. For example, at the 2016 Financial Reporting (FiRe) awards, BRAC Uganda took the NGO category award and also won NGOs general sub-category.

The awards were organized by the Institute of Certified Public Accountants Uganda (ICPAU) in partnership with the Uganda Securities Exchange and Capital Markets Authority under the theme: "Building stakeholder confidence; the power of numbers" with the aim of promoting best practices in financial reporting in complying with international financial reporting standards as prescribed by ICPAU.

"We have done this through using strong financial reporting systems in our organization through institutional diligence, capable staff and with a core focus on accountability, transparency, integrity and punctuality in line with the International Accounting Standards," says Rahman.

Rahman explained that through diligent and thorough reporting systems, they are able to monitor their day-today and overall activities.

"These practices facilitate trust and good working relationships with our donors who are continually apprised of BRAC Uganda's activities," he noted.

However, Rahman says the organisation mainly exists to empower people and communities afflicted by poverty, illiteracy, disease and social injustice and as such, they offer easily accessible, convenient and affordable financial solutions to our clients.

"We aspire to become more financially inclusive by becoming a Tier 2 financial institution. This will enable us to provide a wider range of convenient and affordable financial solutions including savings, money transfers and insurance to the excluded and undeserved communities in Uganda," he added.

 

SNV Uganda, An NGO That Continues To Raise The Bar In Financial Accounting Standards

By Jacky Achan

SNV Netherlands Development Organisation has won the prestigious International Public Sector Accounting Standards (IPSAS) Award for 2016; at the recently hosted Financial Reporting Uganda (FiRe) Awards Ceremony.

This is the second year running; where SNV has won this prestigious award, and reflects the organisation's dedication to excellence with respect to financial accounting, reporting and compliance procedures. In addition, the organisation was honoured to be placed 1st runner up under the overall NGO category.

"As a development actor, our work is grounded in supporting local partners, organizations and communities to pursue sustainable growth within the Agriculture, WASH and Energy sectors; with financial management being a key component of this support.

We strive to hold ourselves to the highest standards in our financial programming, so that we are better able to assist our partners in developing their own capabilities. Our organisation is very proud of our financial team." Michael J.F. O'Mahony, SNV Country Director

SNV is a not-for-profit, international development organization which was founded in the Netherlands in 1965; and has a global presence within 35 countries; across Africa, Asia and Latin America and a workforce of over 1300 personnel (80% of whom are local national staff).

SNV has been present in Uganda since 1989 and currently maintains field offices within Kampala, Arua, Fort Portal, Kasese, Lira and Gulu; covering 108 districts, with a current staff of 46 personnel and a number of partner organizations who are critical to improving both the effectiveness and impact of our work

The FiRe Awards is an annual event now in its sixth year that is organised by the Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Uganda (ICPAU). Its overall aim is to promote best practices in financial reporting in compliance with international financial reporting standards as prescribed by ICPAU, for the various sectors of Uganda's economy.

In addition to promoting financial reporting excellence, it fosters sound corporate governance practices and enhances corporate social investment and environmental reporting.