President's Message - June 2010
May the Mother Nature come soft and kind on all of us! Amen!
For the past two months, we are being hit by intolerably hot winds. Hundreds of people have died of sunstroke in the past two months across the country. Climate specialists foretell more horror for us that many areas of our earth will get too hot to survive in a few years. Taps, handpumps and pipelines have been drying up. This story will get louder every summer in all our cities, towns and villages. Worse, crisis is here to stay. By 2011, our Capital will need to increase its water supply by almost 50 per cent to take care of the basic needs of its citizens. Not just deforestation and industrialisation are to be blamed. It appears that we are losing our fundamental battle for survival. It is, therefore, time to understand that these are more than warning signals, which call for responsibility in all our actions - in our respective capacities.
We are acting quite responsibly in our capacity through strong environment-friendly initiative of our Institute, Planet Alert. We, professionally too, play an active role through environmental accounting and auditing in the industrial sector of our country by working out effective measures for minimising the consumption of resources and wastes. We can aid to the process further by helping the companies achieve the economic and environmental efficiency through appropriate measurements and sustainability reporting framework. Let us remind our society that we understand this need of the hour and its urgency.
Otherwise also, our responsibility refers not just to a compliance with the code of ethics as defined by our Institute, but also with our conscience. We can not afford to increase the crisis-quotient of our country by ignoring either of the two. We cannot be unethical by our training or by our choice. Ethics play an integral role in a professional’s life. Celebrated French philosopher and Nobel Laureate Albert Schweitzer says, ‘Ethics cannot be based upon our obligations toward [people], but they are complete and natural only when we feel…the desire to have compassion for and to help all creatures in so far as it is in our power.’ Only under such assumption, ethics can bring about true growth. Only then, ethics retain their true meaning. Schweitzer’s premises of ethics have to be the guiding strength for all professionals, especially for the CA professionals who are led by values based on strong ethics and candour.
Ethics coupled with an upright mix of social responsibility have the power to save both human beings and humanity in the time dominated by various crises. It is time to be introspective. With an appeal for the righteous perspective, let us look at the steps we have taken, accomplishments we have made and lessons we have learnt from our own failures:
Our Initiatives and IFRS Implementation
It is indeed a matter of pride for us that we are associated with the Ministry of Corporate Affairs in the convergence of the Indian Accounting Standards with the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRSs) in a phased manner. We are spearheading this initiative in India with an understanding that financial reporting system supported by strong governance, high-quality standards and regulatory framework will be the key to our economic growth. We understand our responsibility of contributing to the economic development. We are creating awareness among all, including the Small and Medium Practitioners (SMPs) while enabling them to accept the task ahead for implementing the IFRSs in India. However, we are also conscious of the fact that the implementation of the IFRSs in respect of the SMPs may not be cost effective and accordingly they have been subjected to exception. They will continue to follow the Accounting Standards already in vogue. Such Accounting Standards may be revised from time to time keeping in view the socio-economic requirements.
ICAI Designated as Nodal Agency
After the release of the Exposure Drafts of Accounting Standards corresponding to IFRSs to apply from April 1, 2011, greater need will be to train our members and other stakeholders in context of the implementation of IFRSs. We are aware that the readiness of our convergence with the IFRSs depends upon related preparedness of our professionals. We, therefore, recently organised a Curtain-Raiser Ceremony of the Chain-Workshops on Indian Accounting Standards Converged with IFRSs for the awareness of the relevant stakeholders in New Delhi, which was inaugurated by the Secretary, Ministry of Corporate Affairs, Shri R. Bandyopadhyay. While he praised our initiatives showing complete trust in our competence for the job, he informed that the Ministry has written to all stakeholders including various public-sectors entities that the ICAI would be the nodal agency in the country to provide training on implementation of Indian Accounting Standards converged with the IFRSs. He urged the stakeholders that they must participate in the ICAI’s awareness drive. This curtain raiser event marked an important milestone of our efforts on the convergence. We are thankful to the Government for the confidence reposed in us and we are meeting Secretaries of various departments of Government of India to achieve the objective. Similar meetings shall be held with various regulators including SEBI, RBI and IRDA to carry the project forward. We will also strive to organise series of such programmes in various companies after meeting the heads of the select entities. As a first logical step in this direction, a two-day workshop on IFRSs was successfully held recently for the Central Council members of our Institute in New Delhi with a view to apprise them of the nuances of the convergence. Another two-day programme will be organised for the employees, particularly the CAs, of the Institute in the first week of June.
Chain of Training Workshops
The ICAI, going by its commitment to formulate the accounting standards converged with the IFRSs, has dedicated to the nation a chain of training workshops on Indian Accounting Standards (IASs) converged with IFRSs – intensive training workshops on 58 locations across the country. We have decided to undertake training programmes of varying duration for different entities/individuals, covering broadly the introduction and dissemination of knowledge on the IASs converged with IFRSs and the comparison of the IFRSs with the converged IASs, aiming to provide a general overview of the IASs converged with the IFRSs. It will benefit all the stakeholders, including our members and corporates. The details about the locations of workshops can be found on our website.
Certificate Course and Seminars
Let us remind you about our previous efforts and a massive exercise to train our members in industry as well as in the practice. Last year, we launched an extensive 100-hour Certificate Course on IFRSs and, as a result, about 1800 members have already successfully completed the course. Besides, we also conducted several seminars and conferences on the IFRSs to discuss various aspects of convergence. Special workshops for members in industry will be organised for apprising them of the first-time adoption of the Indian Accounting Standards converged with the IFRSs.
Direct Tax Issues Arising from Convergence
We take this opportunity to inform all our members that a Group has been constituted for identifying Direct Taxes issues arising from the convergence of the Indian Accounting Standards (ASs) with the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRSs). Further, two Sub-Groups would study the practices adopted in other countries at the time of implementation of the IFRSs to mitigate the hardships of entities that may arise due to difference between the income as per financial statements and computed under tax laws. They are likely to go into various provisions of Direct Taxes, which may require change in view of fair-value accounting concept. The changes may be required in Direct Tax provisions to take care of moving from ‘incurred loss’ to ‘expected loss’ concept. However, it may not be out of place to say that the difference in the income calculated under financial statements and that under tax provisions cannot be eliminated altogether, though it may be reduced to quite an extent. Also, the Government may have to contend with the issue of SMEs continuing with accounting based on historical cost concept as per existing standards.
Joint Initiatives of India and Japan
You will be happy to know that a Japanese delegation led by Mr. Noriaki Shimazaki, Chairman, Internal Affairs Committee, IFRS visited ICAI recently to discuss the modalities of Indo-Japan Conference on IFRS and the capital markets and setting up a working group to enhance cooperation between India and Japan. The ICAI plans to play a key role to implement the understanding reached between India and Japan along with the Japanese Institute of Certified Public Accountants (JICPA) on common issues arising on the implementation of the IFRSs. The delegation along with the team of ICAI officials led by Vice-President CA. G. Ramaswamy, met Hon’ble Minister for Corporate Affairs Shri Salman Khurshid and Shri Bandyopadhyay to discuss and address critical issues involved in convergence to IFRS and evolve consensus through process of consultation mutually agreed to between the two countires. Vice-President CA. G. Ramaswamy expressed that this understanding would pave the way for greater cooperation between the ICAI and the JICPA in future. Shri Bandyopadhyay chaired the meeting for formulating guidelines for cooperation between the two countries and hoped that the said understanding will provide leadership in the development of the accountancy profession in India and Japan.
Later on, the delegates from Japan along with the officials of ICAI including the Chairman of Accounting Standards Board, CA. Manoj Fadnis, deliberated to work out plans for future cooperation. Mrs. Renuka Kumar, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Corporate Affairs, guided the deliberations. CA. T. V. Mohandas Pai, Member of the Board, Infosys, also contributed to the process.
World Congress of Accountants and IFAC Delegation
World Congress of Accountants (WCOA) is organised every four years to deliberate on contemporary issues in accountancy, under the aegis of the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC), to promote the awareness and contribute to the achievement and the implementation of the IFAC’s strategy and mission to serve the public interest.
You will be happy to know that we have bid for hosting the 19th WCOA, also called Olympics of the World’s Accountants, in the year 2014 in India. A high-powered delegation of the IFAC, the global organisation of accountancy profession representing 2.5 million accountants spread over 124 countries, comprising its President Mr. Robert Bunting, CEO Mr. Ian Ball, and Technical Manager, Governance & Operations, Mr. Matthew Bohun visited India.
The IFAC delegation first visited the city of Hyderabad, the IT hub of India and the proposed venue for the Congress, to assess our proposal of hosting the WCOA in India. The proposed venue, Hyderabad International Convention Centre, has a huge capacity of more than 6,000 delegates. Normally 5000 delegates across the world participate in the Congress. The IFAC delegates were quite impressed with the infrastructure of the city and the venue. The delegation also met the Hon’ble Governor of Andhra Pradesh, Shri E. S. L. Narasimhan, its Chief Secretary, Shri S. V. Prasad, and Home Secretary, in Hyderabad. The delegation was assured every kind of support by the top dignitaries of the State. All the doubts lurking in the minds of the delegation regarding the hosting of the Conference were set at rest. We thank the government dignitaries for their support and understanding extended in this endeavour. We do sincerely hope and pray that the delegation may give its verdict in favour of India and, then, we will have the proud privilege to host the first World Congress of Accountants in India in 2014. Whereas it was a matter of great satisfaction and pride that Hyderabad has such a tremendous infrastructural facility of hosting conferences having more than 5000 delegates, however, it remains a matter of concern that our metros don’t have such facilities and, therefore, there is an urgent need to create the same.
A seminar on Role of Accounting Profession in New Economic Order was also organised during the visit. After the technical session on New Accounting Language, the seminar was addressed by the IFAC President, ICAI Vice-President and the undersigned. The efforts made by our Central Council members CA. J. Venkateswarlu and CA. M.Devaraja Reddy, and the Hyderabad Branch Chairman CA. C. Venkatram in making the IFAC delegation’s Hyderabad visit successful were noteworthy.
As a first step of IFAC delegations’s Delhi visit, a press conference was organised by the ICAI, which was addressed by Mr. Robert Bunting, Mr. Ian Ball, and Mr Matthew Bohun, and the undersigned. Mr. Kenneth Dakdduck and Ms. Jan Munro, the Chairman and the Director of the IESBA of IFAC respectively, also attended the conference, as they were also in the ICAI to discuss ethics-related issues. CA. G. Ramaswamy, Vice-President, ICAI, and Shri T. Karthikeyan, Secretary, ICAI, were also present in the conference. The undersigned informed the media that the prime objective of the IFAC delegation’s visit was to assess the ICAI’s proposal to host next WCOA in India and the delegation was deeply impressed with the proposed venue and Hyderabad’s infrastructure.
The delegation later met the Hon’ble Chief Minister of Delhi Smt. Sheila Dixit, the Comptroller and Auditor General of India Shri Vinod Rai, the Secretary of the Ministry of Corporate Affairs Shri R. Bandyopadhyay and the Secretary of the Ministry of Commerce & Industry Shri Rahul Khullar in New Delhi. The role of India’s supreme auditing body in the implementation of the IFRSs and the independence of accounting standards setting process were among the issues discussed with Shri Rai. At the meeting with Shri Khullar, the participants discussed opening up of accounting profession in the country in the wake of economic development. During the meetings, the IFAC President particularly elucidated the role of the IFAC in the development of accountancy profession worldwide.
To celebrate the occasion, a conference on Role of Accountancy Profession in Anchoring Economic Order was organised by the NIRC of the ICAI, highlighting the role of accounting profession in the recent financial crisis. At this conference, the undersigned highlighted that the accountancy profession needs to seriously reconsider the existing manner of reporting by auditors so as to bridge the expectation gap on one hand and raise the quality of reporting on the other hand. In this context, the undersigned called upon the IFAC to have a look at the existing reporting requirements in the form of Companies (Auditor’s Report) Order (CARO), 2003 and Long Form Audit Report for the banking sector for implementation at international level. The IFAC President urged the Indian accounting profession to play a proactive role right from the stage of conceptualisation to the formulation of standards. Here, efforts made by CA. Atul Gupta, Chairman, NIRC in organising the conference were noteworthy.
SAFA and ICAI
Recently, the ICAI delegation, led by the undersigned, attended the 13th SAFA Board meeting held in Colombo, including the strategic meeting of the SMP Committee and the Task Force to review the existing Constitution of SAFA. Important changes proposed by us in the existing Constitution of SAFA, like removal of the post of ‘Advisor’ and a provision for ‘associate membership’ were unanimously accepted by all member bodies. During the meeting, the issue of setting up an independent and permanent Secretariat, other than the ICAI, was also discussed. We showed our willingness to support the proposal, if all member bodies were ready to share the additional cost to be incurred for the purpose. No other member showed interest to have the permanent secretariat in their Institute. We assured the members of our complete support in all the endeavours of SAFA.
During the SAFA Board Meeting, we agreed to host the SAFA–RSS (Regional Standard Setters) meeting in November-December this year in New Delhi with the Chair of the IASB, Sir David Tweedie, as Chief Guest. The Auditing & Assurance Standards Board and Ethical Standards Board of the ICAI will also participate in the meeting. However, a proposal to host the first SAFA–SMP Forum in August 2010 is under consideration.
During the SMP Committee meeting, we shared the initiatives as undertaken by the ICAI for the capacity-building of the SMPs in India, e.g. networking, merger and de-merger, and provision for setting up limited companies for consultancy. Also, we shared that the LLP concept has been recognised in India and the required consequential amendments in the Acts of all the three professional Institutes are under consideration of the Government. A concept paper,Issues and Challenges faced by SMPs and SMEs in SAARC Region, prepared by us was also discussed in the meeting.
High-Powered Committee Report on Satyam Episode
We have finalised Second Volume of the ICAI’s High-Powered Committee Report on the Satyam episode. The Committee made several suggestions including strict penal actions against auditors who are found to be colluding with management in serious accounting frauds. We have suggested to frame a code of conduct for Financial Analysts and Investment Bankers for better scrutiny of firms that may indulge in malpractices. The Report has already been submitted to the Ministry. Meanwhile, proposed amendments to the Chartered Accountants Act, 1949 arising out of recommendations in High- Powered Committee’s Report, Volume 1, will be discussed in a Special Council Meeting to be conducted in mid-June and will be sent to the Government for necessary action.
Government Accepts ICAI Suggestions
You shall be glad to know that our suggestion relating to exemption of capital gains in the hands of shareholders consequent to conversion of a company into LLP has been accepted by the Government of India. It is also heartening that one out of the three amendments made while passing the Finance Bill, 2010 was in accordance with the suggestions submitted by the Direct Taxes Committee of ICAI given as part of the Post-Budget Memorandum, 2010.
In the Memorandum, we had observed that though as per the Section 47(xiiib), conversion of a company into an LLP is exempt from tax, liability would be attracted in the hands of shareholders under Sections 46(2) and 2(22) (c). Therefore, it was suggested that when the account of the shareholder is credited in the books of the LLP on such conversion, the provisions of the Sections 46(2) and 2(22)(c) levying tax on the shareholder on distribution of assets on liquidation of a company should not apply. This suggestion was accepted while passing the Finance Bill, 2010 by amending the Section 47(xiiib).
ICAI’s Presentation Before the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance
With a view to keep pace with changes in the national and international economy, the Ministry of Corporate Affairs has taken up a comprehensive review of the existing Companies Act, 1956 and released the Companies Bill, 2009, for comments. We have submitted our suggestions to the Ministry and to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance of the Lok Sabha Secretariat in this regard. Further, a presentation emphasizing on concerns related to accountancy profession was also made before the Committee.
ICAI’s Presentation Before IBA
You will be happy to note that the Institute made a presentation for the first time before the Indian Banks’ Association (IBA) Managing Committee that met recently. It was attended by the CMDs of the selected public- and private-sector banks. We highlighted the role of CAs in the implementation of the IFRSs and XBRL in banking sector and assured them of our full support including holding workshops. Also, we emphasised the need for uniformity in concurrent audit empanelment procedures, scope, reporting formats, auditor’s remuneration and frequency of reporting. We also highlighted the role of CAs in information systems audit, revenue audit, stock audit, debtor’s audit, credit audit, etc. We emphasized the importance of reporting by auditors, particularly with reference to CARO, 2003 which can be used by banks for effecting credit monitoring. We also highlighted the disciplinary mechanism of the ICAI and allayed fears of bank officials on such matters. We also pointed out that having filed complaints, in certain cases, the banks do not provide the required information to take the disciplinary proceedings to their logical conclusion. The presentation was very well received and it shall be our sincere endeavour to follow up our effort to the desired objective of enhancing the professional opportunities for our members.
We propose to develop software to cater to the documentation needs of all practicing members specially our small and medium practitioners. Besides empowering them, this software will provide necessary checklists and required tools to ensure compliance with all applicable accounting and auditing standards and relevant legislations. It will be our endeavour to provide this software to the members at a reasonable cost.
Representations to Government Agencies
As a step in the direction of consolidating the ethical audit and accounting practices, our Institute has, last month, represented to Smt. Usha Narayanan, Executive Director of the SEBI, regarding introduction of internal audit by chartered accountants in all listed companies as supervision of internal control function by a chartered accountant firm. Recently, the ICAI delegation that included Vice-President, ICAI, and the undersigned met the Secretary, Department of Financial Services, Ministry of Finance, Shri R. Gopalan, and discussed the issues of managerial autonomy granted to banks, particularly with regard to appointment of auditors, internal audit of insurance companies and pre-audit by chartered accountants (in case disbursal amount of the insurance claim is above a threshold limit). We also met the Joint Secretary, Department of Insurance and Pension, Ministry of Finance, Shri Tarun Bajaj, and discussed the issues of mutual interest including internal audit and concurrent audit of branches of insurance companies. We have recently sent a representation to the Chairman, CBDT, to avail centralised panel of chartered accountants or CA firms for allotting special audit under Section 142(2A) of the Income-tax Act, 1961 across the country.
Group Formed to Check Misrepresentations by Non-CAs
Of late, we have come across cases involving forgery of signature and misuse of seal of chartered accountants in the general-purpose financial statements, tax audit reports and other statutory and non-statutory documents. We have set up a Group to look into these practices of misrepresentations. The Group will deliberate and formally suggest measures in order to keep a check on such fraudulent practices and to ensure that the public interest is taken care of. The Council at its last meeting has considered a proposal for strict punishment under Section 24 of the Chartered Accountants Act, 1949 (dealing with penalty for falsely claiming to be a member). It is proposed to enhance the penalty to a significant amount including imprisonment upto five years.
Meeting Commerce Educationists
We plan to hold a one-day workshop with the Vice Chancellors and Heads of Department of Commerce of various universities to assess the present-day relevance, orientation, efficacy and utility of commerce education in India and its future needs. The idea is to know what our country needs in terms of commerce education for the overall benefit of the economy. It will be highly beneficial for all the stakeholders as educational institutions may carry, in their courses, contents from the CA perspective to make them more useful from the viewpoint of industry and society at large. The idea is also to assess the likely changes in commerce education in future and to plan revision of curriculum, if so required, well in advance. It will also enable the ICAI to build up a resource pool for our examination and academic requirements. As a brand building exercise for the profession, such an event will also promote the wider awareness of the CA Course within appropriate strata of the society.
When crisis strikes, education becomes our power to guard, respond and guide, which has two fundamental forms: theory and practice. In principle, they may not be any different. But, practically, they are, as Confucius had once said: What I hear, I forget. What I see, I remember. What I do, I understand. Education that comes through our action is powerful. It helps us to know what we do not know and how much more we need to know. Only a continuous education can make us complete – to review our knowledge and past experiences, and to connect them to our present. Urge to know the truth has overpowered all other desires in human beings and this situation is quite prophetic. Dear Students! Please watch out!
Examinations are over. We believe, students must have done well. Now, they must focus on practical training that is cornerstone of success in our profession. We regret, however, that re-examination was ordered at one centre for IPCC, while another re-examination was ordered on all-India basis for Hindi medium students with regard to the Cost Accounting paper of the IPCC. The decisions were driven by the circumstances that warranted them. The performance of coordinators and observers of examinations is under review and the system will be strengthened. We are confident that with such preventive measures, similar situations will not recur in future.
We are concerned over the working of ITT Centres, and accordingly, 16 ITT centres were selected in a random manner across the countr to be put to audit/review for identifying the grey areas to improve their functioning. The review revealed that certain centres are not adhering to ICAI guidelines. The necessary steps are being taken to ensure that all ITT Centres comply with the guidelines issued by the ICAI.
Further, we have been making constant efforts to provide academic inputs to standardise the quality of 100-Hour IT-Training imparted to our students through our IT centres. The second module of the ITT course material has already been thoroughly revised. Also, a CD containing laboratory exercises and case studies for practical sessions on various relevant topics of the curriculum has been prepared. These inputs will help the students in understanding the application of software in their professional space.
Infrastructure Acceleration Group
We plan to categorise our branches under four categories based on number of members and students served by the branch, say, less than 250, 251-500, 501-1000, and 1000 and above. Uniform infrastructural facilities are planned for the branches to ensure optimal utilisation of resources available at various branches.
In view of the above, we have evaluated various ongoing building projects. Whereas it would be our endeavour to ensure the completion of various projects, we may have to shelve a few projects where the commitments are too high in relation to the number of the members and students being served by the branch. We can assure the office bearers of all branches that infrastructural facilities shall continue to be looked into with all urgency they deserve.
Meanwhile, the work on Bandra-Kurla Complex project in Mumbai is in full swing. This project, once completed, will be a pride of our profession. Similarly, the project of new ICAI Bhawan in Kolkata is attracting our attention and we intend to complete its first phase by December 2010. It will prove to be another milestone for our profession.
Future Belongs to Us
It is a matter of joy for the accountancy profession in India that, of late, there has been a welcome upsurge in the opportunities available to the members in industry. As a result, more members are joining industry and a concern has been voiced that fewer members would come into practice because of lucrative offers in industry. This apprehension is indeed genuine. However, we believe that, within 3-5 years, there will be a partial reversal of this trend and auditing and accounting practice will grow manifold. With a positive growth in the economy, we are bound to have greater professional opportunities available to the members in practice, both from privateand public-sector. Let us not forget that the C&AG office recently entered into an arrangement with few hundred chartered accountants to undertake assignments at individual level as their extended arm. The number of chartered accountants to be engaged by the C&AG office will increase manifold, once the auditing of panchayat funds, the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) fund and the National Rural Employment Gurantee Act (NREGA), etc., come under the purview of the C&AG. It is in the offing, probably immediately after a proposed amendment to the C&AG Act, 1971 in this regard. We can also foresee ever-increasing opportunities for chartered accountants in areas like Mergers & Acquisitions, Due Diligence, Consultancy including in respect of FEMA, Valuations, IFRS Implementation, Indirect Taxes including GST, and IT, etc. The CA fraternity can rest assured of a very bright future. However, quality of professional services will hold the key.
Transparency is the key to improve all kinds of services. It is in this view that we have endeavoured to share all information with membership at large. Reporting of certain matters should not be seen as signs of weakness of the system, but as an effort to improve upon the same in a timely and effective manner. --------------------- July 1, celebrated as CA Day, marks the establishment of the ICAI in India. All chartered accountants of India will be busy preparing for celebrations through the month of June. July 1, let us recall, also marks the enactment of the British North America Act in 1867, which united two British colonies and a province of the British Empire into a single country called Canada, therefore, also known as Canada’s Day. CA is the country code for Canada used as internet domain name. Our chapter in Toronto will have reasons for double celebrations on July 1. We would like to extend our advance wishes to the citizens of Canada for their celebrations of July 1.
However, the Indian CA community across the world will always remember July 1 as CA (chartered accountants’) Day. It is a matter of overwhelming joy that our Institute, being the second largest accounting body of the world, has 21 overseas Chapters spanning all possible continents of the world to facilitate best-possible professional relationship of world accounting fraternities with ours. Despite outstanding achievements in the past, we will remember that we still have miles to go from where we are at present.
Notable American humourist Mark Twain denounces all who only ‘grumble about the weather, but…but…but’ they do ‘nothing’…‘about it.’ We will learn how to weather all weathers of crisis by joining hands with other responsible citizens of the world. This pledge is especially crucial at present, as accounting fraternities across the world have been trying their best to learn a common code of financial reporting.
CA. Amarjit Chopra,
May 25, 2010