Dear Professional Colleagues,
The Council Year 2020-21 is reaching its finality very soon. As per the tradition, I will be completing my tenure as the President of ICAI to move ahead, with a feeling of great satisfaction that we as a team are able to contribute for our alma mater, despite the challenges posed by pandemic. The opportunity to head this august Institute is indeed a great honour which works with abundant professionalism. The Journey at the helm of the ICAI as Vice-President in 2019-20 and then as President has been challenging and personally gratifying. As head of the accounting profession in India, it has always been my endeavour to take the Indian Accounting Profession to greater heights.
It would not have been possible to serve the second largest accounting body of the world without unstinted support of the Vice-President, CA. Nihar N. Jambusaria, other Council colleagues and officers of the Institute. I also wish to place on record, contribution of members of the accounting profession for standing with me to uphold the virtues of independence, integrity and excellence in the accounting profession. Being a progressive organisation, committed to the business and society, economy centric initiatives have been the cornerstone of our Institute, particularly in these challenging times. I am extremely delighted to be part of this exciting journey and contribute to the best of my abilities.
CA. V.B. Haribhakti, past President, ICAI once remarked “Accountancy profession today faces a challenge – a challenge to unite and to strengthen itself and to make a tangible contribution to the solution of the problems facing the nation. In accepting this challenge, the profession will have to continue to display integrity, courage and resourcefulness.” The year 2020-21, in the wake of continuing pandemic, has been truly challenging for all of us. My heart swells with pride as the Institute has taken giant strides to responding to the extraordinary challenges of lockdown to become a more progressive organisation bringing technologically at the forefront. During the year the brand ICAI significantly gained in popularity. Opening of more than 30 Chapters and Representative offices (RO) in one year, positioning ICAI and its representation at various national and global forum, recognition of Indian Chapters and ROs by Ministry of external affairs, New MRAs and MoUs are the testimonial of the same.
ICAI has also taken a number of initiatives to assist the Government and its endeavours. ICAI is the important constituent of eco-system for Environment, Sustainability and Growth (ESG). Responding to pandemic related challenges faced by the country, ICAI contributed Rs. 21 crore in PM CARES/ PMNR Fund for emergency use. This was aptly supported by other units of ICAI to include measures to provide support to various sections in kind. ICAI also responded to mission Aatmanirbhar Bharat in the national interest. Make in India and Aatmanirbhar Bharat are major national programmes designed to facilitate investment, foster innovation and build reliable manufacturing infrastructure in the country. We believe Chartered Accountants with close proximity to the business, industry and entrepreneurs can work with the focus areas of MSME and in different sectors. ICAI released a MSME rebooting checklist and launched Mentorship Program for providing support in Make in India project of the Government of India. One hundred facilitation centres for GST & MSME were also launched towards developing Aatmanirbhar Bharat. A study was also undertaken on “Ease of Doing Business – Global Best Practices to establish Foreign Company in India”.
Exports play an important role in the Indian economy, influencing the level of economic growth, employment and bringing external stabilisation. Exports are considered as a major incentive for domestic production as it makes best use of natural, human and other resources available in the country. In the recent past, the Indian policy makers have identified Champion Services Sectors for promoting their development, and realizing their potential. These include Accounting and Finance Services as one of the champion sector. ICAI in order to assist the Government in the drive, entered into engagement with Ministry of Commerce to start eleven projects for export of Services under Champion Sector project. The engagement will help in improving the competitiveness of Indian service sectors thereby promoting GDP growth.
Using technology to the hilt, the ICAI continued its services without any interruptions or slackness throughout the period of lockdown. Being a knowledge driven organisation, ICAI continued spreading education and skills using ITES. Self- Service Portal, Digital learning hub, E-learning platform for members and students become fully functional with virtual structured and unstructured CPE hours. ICAI’s international conference with theme “Accountancy Profession: Augmenting Economic Sustainability” was successfully held virtually for the first time. More than 3000 Webinars and virtual CPE meetings were organised to serve the knowledge quest of members and other stakeholders. Global Speakers participated in ICAI’s different initiatives. Dedicated portal for Industrial Training placement, CABF, WE CARE, MSME Mentorship program, revamped web site of ICAI, Digi Locker were also launched during this Council Year to facilitate growth and ease of access to members, students and other stakeholders. The first ever live virtual classes were launched without any cost for students considering the hardship being faced by the students in their learning endeavours.
This year has taught us that no obstacle is large enough as long as we are equipped with positivity and faith as our armour. Today, when I look back in hindsight, one of the biggest challenges that we have accomplished during the year is the successful completion of Chartered Accountancy Examination during November/December, 2020 in the pandemic situation. Your ICAI not only organised the 24 days long exams in staggered way at highest ever 1084 examination centres including 8 overseas locations while recovering from pandemic ensuing safety of all but also adopted the 100% digital evaluation mechanism coupled with benefit of reduction in time lag between exam and result period and quick disposal of re-verification request.
We are all aware that the Institute is set up under an Act of Parliament and shoulder a responsibility to regulate the accountancy profession in the country. I am strongly of the view that if we have to maintain our unique position, we have to further consolidate our position as Robust Regulatory body. After successful implementation of e-hearing of Disciplinary cases during this Council Year, we took one more step in the direction of digitisation by starting a separate portal for disciplinary mechanism. I am happy to intimate that disciplinary mechanism of ICAI completed more than 650 cases during last two years and in the times to come, this will bring more trust and take the eco-system of Governance to next level. To take forward our regulatory mechanism, which paves the way to act as a facilitator first and then as a regulator in new economic environment, your Council has approved revised Statement of Peer Review. Simultaneously, we have augmented processes and resources within our Financial Reporting Review Board. This all has been done with a view to enhance our capacity and to achieve a target to complete the review of financial statements of all listed companies beyond a threshold limit in a band of pre-targeted period. To support these efforts further, the revised 12th edition of Code of Ethics came into effect from 1st July, 2020 to guide our members in discharging their duties more effectively & ethically.
The Institute of Chartered Accountants of India has always cultivated the belief that development can only occur exclusive of definite borders. One of the most satisfying moments is to see that today Institute’s flag is standing high in 64 global cities spreading into 43 countries. We, at the Institute, firmly believe that as territories dissolve and the world become smaller, opportunities multiply and success expands.
In this issue we are including a detailed write-up on significant activities that have taken place. Let me now also share some of the recent important matters:
Hon’ble Governor of Kerala addresses ICAI Council
I am happy to share that Hon’ble Governor of Kerala, Shri Arif Mohammed Khan addressed the Council meeting of the Institute recently held in Kerala on 10th of January. He highlighted the importance of accounting profession in Indian economy and conveyed his best wishes. He said that accounting has always been an important pillar in the process of good governance. Highlighting importance of women in society and governance, he looked forward to more female representation in the Council of ICAI in future. It was also an excellent opportunity for us to showcase the contributions made by the Institute towards nation building.
National Collaborative Programme with Association of Indian Universities
In the present times it is important that the students are imparted employable skills and given knowledge which is contemporary and holistic. National Education Policy, 2020 focusses on holistic, multidisciplinary and futuristic education and aims to create ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’. In this direction, the ICAI jointly with the Association of Indian Universities (AIU) organised a “National Collaborative Programme by AIU and ICAI for Vice Chancellors of Universities” on 13th January, 2021 through Webinar. The primary objective of programme was to provide a platform to interact with the Vice-Chancellors of various universities across India and experts from the ICAI and to deliberate upon the new paradigms for education system in India and skilling the Indian Education System for creating employable graduates.
ICAI and AIU together can contribute towards skill-based competence building for students in India thereby enhancing the employability of the graduates of the country. The event was graced by Dr. Bhushan Patwardhan, Vice Chairman, UGC and Dr. (Ms.) Pankaj Mittal, Secretary General, AIU. In view of the requests received from various Vice Chancellors during the course of the programme to enter into an MoU with the ICAI seeking the benefit of the expertise of ICAI in the field of education and training, AIU proposed an umbrella MoU covering the interested and eligible universities.
Research for the Future
Research has been integral to accounting profession since the formation of the Institute. The Institute shares useful research inputs to the government from time to time and many of its suggestions forms part of policy formation and changes. As a major thrust to the Accounting research, ICAI has initiated a number of projects to encourage research-based activities in academia by keen researchers. In this direction, to recognise the research contribution in the areas of international and societal importance, ICAI instituted first “ICAI International Research Awards 2020” which could be considered as the World’s Largest Cross Border Competition in Accountancy sector. It is envisaged that over the period of the time, such quality research will provide valuable inputs to address many environmental, social and corporate governance issues for decision makers towards improving sustainability. The Jury for International research Awards was chaired by Dr. In-Ki Joo, Immediate Past President, International Federation of Accountants (IFAC) and other members of Jury Panel were the eminent individuals having international presence from five different continents. A total of 92 Research Papers from ten different countries namely United States, Australia, South Africa, UAE, Netherland, Turkey, Oman, Bahrain, Nigeria and India were received. Award presentation ceremony for “ICAI International Research Awards 2020” coincided with “ICAI Awards for Excellence in Financial Reporting 2019-20”.
Further, ICAI continues its legacy to honour stellar individuals and organized 14th ICAI Awards, 2020 on 20th January, 2021. During the award ceremony, the Chartered Accountants who have excelled in their organisation and have brought good name to the profession were honoured.
Imbibing Technology – Using Artificial Intelligence
ICAI through its Financial Review Reporting Board is gearing up for another milestone by way of utilising Artificial Intelligence (AI) to systematically identify the non-compliances in financial statements to make the review process more robust. The proposed system will have capability of Artificial Intelligence / Analytics so that common non-compliances can be easily flagged. The system will maintain repository of non-compliances observed by the Board. Over the period, it would help to scale up the number of cases being undertaken for review as well as in strengthening financial reporting practices in India which would promote stakeholder’s confidence in audited financial statements.
As we have come close to the end of the Council year, I would like to take this opportunity to express gratitude to my esteemed fellow colleagues in the Council, Past Presidents, representatives at Regional Councils, Branches, foreign Chapters, Representative Offices and the entire accounting fraternity in providing continued support in taking many initiatives for the betterment of the profession. I am also thankful to Hon’ble Ministers, Secretaries, and Officers of various Ministries for all the support extended to the Institute during the year. Whatever little we have achieved could not have been possible without their active guidance.
Specifically I am grateful and would like to convey thanks to Shri Om Birla, Hon’ble Speaker Lok Sabha for his blessings and presence on CA Day and many other occasions, Smt. Nirmala Sitharaman, Hon’ble Minister for Finance and Corporate Affairs, Shri (CA.) Piyush Goyal, Hon’ble Minister of Railway, Commerce & Industry, Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, Late Shri Suresh Angadi, the then Minister of State for Railways, Shri (CA.) Arun Singh, Hon’ble Member of Parliament, Shri (CA.) Thomas Chazhikadan, Hon’ble Member of Parliament for personally visiting ICAI and guide us on various matters of importance. I am failing in my duty if I do not acknowledge the support and guidance extended to the ICAI by Shri Anurag Singh Thakur, Hon’ble Minister of State for Finance and Corporate Affairs and both the Secretaries of MCA, Shri Injeti Srinivas and Shri Rajesh Verma as friend, philosopher and guide in various endeavours of national interest. All officers and staff of the ICAI led by Acting Secretary, Shri Rakesh Sehgal provided the much-desired administrative support in implementation of various initiatives. Above all, I bow to the almighty for giving me strength to face the challenges and keeping the flag of Indian accountancy profession high and to my Parents and Gurus for their continued divine blessings. This moment, in fact, brings a sense of self-actualisation together with consciousness of the onerous responsibility which I have shouldered with the support and cooperation of all of you.
The time has come when I have to bid adieu to you as the President of this august Institute. I must admit that I have cherished my tenure as President and appreciate having the opportunity to work with and for the members, students and all stakeholders of the Institute. Challenges make us stronger to face difficult times and at times bring out best out of us. We should move towards the target steadily but with patience. As we tread on an unexplored path in pursuit of excellence, we must remember that patience is a key weapon in our armoury. Patience encourages you to be consistent towards your goals and helps you appreciate your journey towards success. Remember the old adage – slow and steady wins the race. This resilience accompanied by timely efforts help us to offer our distinctive mark of excellence to the world. I am sure that the collective wisdom, support and guidance of the entire CA fraternity in the journey of excellence will continue to enlighten the path of progressive transformation.
Stay safe and healthy.
Jai Hind, Jai ICAI,
CA. Atul Kumar Gupta