My dear Professional Colleagues,
As I have embarked in my role as the 66th President of ICAI, effective 12th February, I carry with me a sense of inherent pride and elation. I am equally conscious of the magnitude of the responsibility that the Presidency brings along. I am grateful to all my illustrious Predecessors for bringing profession to the stage where it is today. I am equally thankful to the 23rd ICAI Council Colleagues for reposing confidence in me to lead this great profession. Particularly, I owe gratitude to the outgoing President CA. Nilesh Vikamsey for steering several initiatives for profession in the last year. It was indeed a learning time for me partnering in the consolidation measures of the Council Year 2017-18, as Vice-President.
Through this communication; I bring to you the evolution of profession in its current form, where we are, where we wish to go and how do we achieve this.
Friends! While reminiscing debates in the Constituent Assembly in pre-independence era leading to the creation of profession of Chartered Accountants, the Vision of policymakers for the profession was a public-interest institution. Members of the fraternity have followed this avowed mission of being part of a public-interest entity. In the growth of the Indian economy, the Chartered Accountants have continued to play a stellar role. Strong bedrock of professional expertise integrated with professional ethics has kept the brand Indian CA flag high. The alphabets CA are an embodiment of trust and integrity and CA professionals continue to be the navigators for enhanced financial governance of their times.
Friends and fellow colleagues! Our growth story has few parallels. With few thousand members and students, we have reached gigantic proportions. In our sagacious journey of momentum, we have carried with us the legacy of indelible stamp of authority that our authentication brings with it. With spurt in economy and increased reliance on the role of profession, there started the issue of expectation gap or should I say perception gap. We need to rekindle the credibility as core to our existence and growth. Hardcore virtuous professional conduct and our faith in strong enforcement of the framework of the Act will evolve us to be stronger.
CA profession owes its sustainability to strong regimen of ethics. Time of disruptions is a time for introspection and taking corrective actions, if so needed. Let us all pledge to stand united in our avowed task of being guardians of financial probity. As your first constituent, I consider it my moral duty to start my first communication on a note of awareness to take all possible steps, if so needed, to continue enjoying the confidence and trust of our stakeholders. While I assure the fraternity of the unstinting efforts by Council, its Boards and Committees, you all have an equal role in upholding and abiding by the virtues which has brought glory to profession so far.
Now let me share with you some significant professional developments:
Our New Vice-President
I congratulate my Central Council colleague CA. Prafulla Premsukh Chhajed on being elected Vice President of the Institute for the Council Year 2018-19. I am confident, with his rich professional understanding and down-to-earth practical approach, he will be of immense help to me in shouldering my professional responsibilities. A member of ICAI Council since 2013, he has served the profession in various capacities in the Institute. Together, we will take the profession to great heights.
Vision and Strategic Action Plan 2018
At ICAI, we aim to address the challenges before us and creating opportunities in the era of rapidly-changing economic environment. The vision is to become the world’s leading accounting body-regulator and developer of trusted and independent professionals, who carry global competencies.
The Institute shall have a renewed focus on consolidating the CA education and training, and members’ support services with a vision of bringing the Indian CA brand on a higher pedestal. Enhanced governance and accountability to stakeholders will be strengthened using the IT-enabled platforms. Professional opportunities in the domains other than those in the traditional ones will be explored and created. Better empowerment measures for members will be taken up focusing on their skill and talent management and development.
My focus this year would be leveraging newer opportunities through capacity-building. We intend to engage with the users of our services in a larger way for identification of any skill gap and those would be harnessed through appropriate skill development programmes.
Indian Economy under Transition
Post 1990’s Economic Reforms; we have now transformational macro changes like Goods and Service Tax (GST), new insolvency and bankruptcy regime, demonetization which have put the Indian Business and the economy on a much desired newer trajectory. Coupled with this, enhanced focus on financial inclusion through JAM (Jan Dhan/Aadhar/ Mobile) trinity and surge of India Stack initiative are going to change the landscape of the business environment altogether. These steps are radical for resurgence of India as a vibrant and dynamic nation compatible with the emerging milieu. These developments put a wider canvas to build the new India which is reforms driven and is responsive to the needs of civil society.
Commensurate to above, some of the newer dynamics that have significance for the profession are:
a. e-filing and assessment procedure providing for faceless and nameless e-interface between the taxpayer and the assessing officer paving the way for a jurisdiction-free assessment. The said e-assessment, once fully implemented, will facilitate a culture of transparency and a borderless compliance. It is gathered that CBDT is working on the same for putting it in place in the next financial year.
b. Phased launch of intrastate e-way bill- The GST Council proposes to put in a framework for generation of e-way bill-new return filling framework for GST with effect from 1st April of the next financial year and is also addressing the issue of providing for provisional input tax credit or such credit to be given once the tax is paid.
In view of our members working extensively both in the areas of direct and indirect taxation, the initiation of e-framework for the above two will pave for a larger involvement of CA profession in facilitating the implementation and building capacity of the stakeholder.
Bank Audit and Expectations from CA Professionals
As you know, by lending credibility to the financial statements of banks, auditors play an extremely important role in preserving a resilient banking industry. As such, the exercise of bank branch audit assumes a paramount importance for the banking industry, banking regulators and our members, as well as our nation as a whole. Let’s conduct the bank audits in compliance with the relevant Standards on Auditing, keeping the broader national vision in mind. ICAI is planning a series of CPE programs and a revised Guidance Note on Audit of Banks (2018 edition) to help the fraternity will soon be released. I would request my professional colleagues to carry out these assignments with utmost sincerity.
Members in Key Positions in Indian Polity, and Civil and Social Services
Our members today hold key positions in Indian polity as parliamentarians representing their respective constituencies. I would like to congratulate and express our gratefulness to all of them- including Union Minister of Commerce and Industry CA. Suresh P. Prabhu, Union Minister of Railways and Coal CA. Piyush Goyal, Rajya Sabha MPs CA. K. Rahman Khan, CA. Naresh Gujral, CA. Narain Dass Gupta, and CA. Vijay Sai Reddy, and Lok Sabha MPs CA. (Dr.) Kirit Somaiya and CA. Subhash Chandra Baheria - for choosing to work in national interests and contributing to the development of our country. Likewise, I express gratefulness to our members who are serving the nation in key services like judiciary and Civil services (including administrative, foreign, police, revenue, accounts and audit, and railways accounts), ITAT, CESTAT and other Tribunals, regulatory services, etc.
I am sure, the education and training of the Chartered Accountancy course must have helped them achieved excellence and reached where they are today. This must be coming useful for them when it comes to discharging their responsibilities more effectively. I wish to inform them that fraternity feels encouraged and inspired by their examples. At ICAI, we will keep extending our all-out support to the reform agenda of our Government, seeking their guidance in our endeavours.
Showcasing Professional Strength at 68th Annual Function
Recently, our Institute celebrated its achievements of the Council Year 2017-18 at its 68th Annual Function held on 6th February 2018 in New Delhi. Union Minister for Commerce and Industry CA. Suresh P. Prabhu and Union Minister for Railways and Coal CA. Piyush Goyal graced the function as Chief Guests, while Union Minister of State for Law and Justice, and Corporate Affairs Shri P. P. Chaudhary joined us as Guest of Honour.
Highlighting the positives for CA professionals in the revised FDI policy, Union Minister CA. Prabhu said: This is a significant beginning in which government wants to work with you (CAs) to harness large pool of talent among you for building a modern dynamic society that we are capable of. Showing a way forward for the profession, Union Minister CA. Piyush Goyal said: …if all CAs decide that we will change the country, change the way business is done, accounting and auditing is done, India will stand changed. Union Minister of State Shri P. P. Chaudhary commended the Institute for playing a key role in the sectors of corporate governance and economic development and said: If anything is required to be done, it will be certainly in the interest of the institution and the profession... We are together, and we have to work together for a new India by 2020.
We presented awards and honoured our meritorious students and outstanding Regional Councils, Branches and overseas chapters for their accomplishments. Many of ICAI publications were released during the event. We felicitated the newly-elected Rajya Sabha MP and our past President (2001-02) CA. Narain Dass Gupta on the occasion. A brief report of the Annual Function has been printed in this Journal.
Union Budget 2017-18
On 1st February 2018, Union Finance Minister presented a non-populist Union Budget with significant incentives for new jobs, cut in corporate tax to 25% for companies with sales up to 250 crore, creating labour flexibility by allowing contract labour in all sectors, and launching what could become the world’s largest hospital treatment scheme serving 100 million poor households. With fiscal deficit projections revised to 3.5% and 3.3% for the financial years 2018 and 2019, target to reduce the deficit to 3% has been postponed to the financial year 2021. This time, the Budget spending will focus on employment, agriculture and health. The Budget has extended the government’s provident fund subsidy for new employees of all industries. Use of fixed-term labour contracts, earlier restricted to apparel and footwear, has been extended to all industries.
ICAI Proposals Incorporated in Finance Bill, 2016: As you know, we had submitted Pre-Budget Memoranda, before the presentation of Union Budget on 1st February 2018, to the Ministry of Finance extending our proposals. It is extremely satisfying to note that, like every year, our policy suggestions were duly considered and many of them eventually incorporated too in the Finance Bill, 2018. Please find a detailed report in this regard in this Journal elsewhere.
Conclave on Union Budget: To suitably inform our members on the tax proposals, among other issues, in the Union Budget, we organised a Conclave on Union Budget, 2018 on 2nd February 2018 in New Delhi. CBDT Chairman Shri Sushil Chandra and CBDT Joint Secretaries Shri Rajesh Kumar Bhoot and Shri Rasmi Ranjan Das, present on the occasion, appreciated the Institute’s initiatives and efforts especially with regard to the financial health of the country, and in administration and collection of direct and indirect taxes. Discussions on indirect and direct tax proposals were anchored by my Central Council colleague CA. Atul Kumar Gupta and CA. (Dr) Girish Ahuja respectively.
Post-Budget Memorandum: We are in process of finalizing our Post-Budget Memorandum considering practical difficulties faced by the taxpayers and professionals in the application of the provisions of Income-tax Act, 1961, without forgetting the Government’s rationale behind the proposals. We believe our Post-Budget Memorandum shall also receive a positive consideration.
During the course of budget speech, Union Finance Minister made a reference to Ease of Living. ICAI believes that reforms in the Government accounting through a move towards accrual accounting will pave the way for a transparent and more empowered public financial management space giving desired fillip to an outcome-based approach. It is all the more important when huge outlets are involved on the increased social welfare projects. I also urge the fraternity to aid the grassroots level urban local bodies and other municipal bodies in handholding the process of conversion of cash to accrual accounting.
Empowering (Skilling) Membership-Training beyond Tradition
Many professional avenues and opportunities like insolvency, ADR (alternate dispute resolution), anti-money laundering and litigation in management have come up in the recent past. A constructive thought process is on with regard to the enhancement of professional opportunities of our members in the Government departments and PSUs. ICAI will further act to empower them with various postqualification education and training programmes including those in best-in-class digital skills, such as analytics, blockchain, emerging FinTech, international rules and regulations, and professional practices abroad. Leadership development programmes will be floated for the members in coordination and help from the leading national and international institutions. We have planned to introduce digital mentoring programmes to guide and support our young as well as women members. To provide a focused thrust, a dedicated Young Members Skill & Innovation Development Committee has been formed at ICAI, this year. A dedicated-to-members knowledge management cell too is in our thought process.
Professional Response in Challenging Times
Since inception our profession acted in the best interest of nation and all stakeholders of the Country. However, once in a while there are occasions when due to some isolated cases concerns have been raised about the contribution of the profession and services rendered by members like in the PNB matter. A high powered group has been constituted by the Council, which is since looking into the matter.
Digital Reforms for Digital India-ICAI Plan
Our Strategic Action Plan for 2018-19 comes with a tagline - Let us think different, let’s think digital-highlighting the need to digitally empower the ICAI and its systems, so that it could respond to the challenges of our times catering to the stakeholders today. Let us understand, today, “e” stands for empowerment and, therefore, we must bring digital reforms in our processes, to make the profession and its practitioners stronger and all the more resilient.
As Indian businesses are undergoing a shift in Digital economy, accountancy profession requires evolution, especially in the context of new technologies such as big data analytics, cyber security and artificial intelligence. At ICAI too, we are in the process of change vis-à-vis the learning, acceptance and implementation of various technology-driven and technology-friendly measures. In this transformational era, the accountancy profession should treat technology as an opportunity, and a great enabler. Technological advancements, unarguably, will also improve the quality of our accounting and financial services. Therefore, all we require today is innovation, reskilling and an open mind that accepts innovation.
With India aiming to become $1 trillion digital economy in 5 years, ICAI has stepped up its moves towards its digitization. At ICAI, this year, we have planned to initiate a digital transformation project setting up technology centres with advanced ITT, hi-tech labs, etc., and launching a new mobile app to provide key services to its members and students. We will also launch a dedicated portal for its overseas members for the purpose of effective networking among themselves. An app for online submission and facilitation of Good Standing Certificate for Members overseas is also going to be launch. Volume of communication and interactions with members will be upped using various social media platforms. Existing user interfaces with ICAI like its website and mobile app will be revamped incorporating more interactive features and making it more user-friendly.
Branches to Get More Proactive
I would request our Branches and CPE Study Circles to get more active vis-à-vis their professional contribution. They should constitute groups to submit suggestions more actively. In the process, they should associate with the Government offices/agencies locally to make their contribution stronger and more inclusive. Through such formed-groups, they should contribute regularly to the exposure drafts and/or other papers made available by ICAI for public comments. Such efforts will increase the professional productivity of Branches on one hand and strengthen the professional voice and standing on the other.
Use e-Sahaayataa to Register Concerns
In the spirit of digitization, I would request all of you to use the platform of e-Sahaayataa (https://help.icai.org/) to put down and share your issues, concerns and problems with the Institute, and concerned functionaries from the Institute will get back to you with the solution, suggestions and way-forward. Since, this is a monitored multileveled e-platform, concerns of our members and students if not addressed within deadline and if not, the concerns reach the higher authorities. The system since its launch has addressed more than 3 lakh queries and already, ICAI is in receipt of multiple appreciations from the users, i.e. members and students, for instant and timely redressal of their concerns. Our priority is to further upgrade the system during the year. Your singular use of e-Sahaayataa will also streamline the administrative complexities of our officials providing them an interactive space to address your concerns effectively.
As you know, Chartered Accountants’ Benevolent Fund (CABF) of ICAI is a philanthropic initiative for the welfare of our members in distress and of the families of our deceased members. It is time for us to come forward and donate to strengthen the funds of CABF to keep the help flowing to our members. While we are happy, our heart must go out to our professional colleagues and their families, who are in trouble, without forgetting our responsibilities to our fraternity. When I took over as President of the Institute, among my first few steps, I donated R1 lakh to the Fund. Also, I take this opportunity to extend my sincere appreciations and gratefulness from the core of my heart to our colleagues from Southern and Western Regions who recently made a generous contribution to the Fund.
Let us Respect Deadline in Work
Maxim Gorky had observed: When work is a pleasure, life is a joy. When work is duty, life is slavery. Since we love our work, it is never tiresome for us. We love it, as we know there is a purpose in what we do. We are playing the required and essential role in the economic well-being of our nation. We are working day and night towards that. Thomas Alva Edison inspires us all, when he says: I have not failed. I have merely found 10,000 ways that won't work. But in the contemporary world, such a workaholism is not desired, since it not only creates undue stress but also affect our work life balance. When we fail to complete some work in specified time, we get stressed. Idea, therefore, is to plan our work intelligently and manage their completion well before respective timelines. Let us also keep our clients on the same page with regard to our sticking to deadline, as specified by the Government.
Let us create smart schedule not just for ourselves but for our clients as well, i.e. goals that are measurable, attainable and relevant and are achievable within specified time. We just need to plan and manage our work-process, and we can attain some balance between our work and personal life. This management will save us from undue stress, and eventually from the undesired date extensions before deadline. Let us do our work with a positive mindset. Helen Keller says: Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement.
Let us celebrate the women empowerment and their achievements without any regard to their national, ethnic, linguistic, cultural, economic or political identities, on 8th March globally known as International Women’s Day. Women regarded as first teacher of all human beings need to be positioned and empowered, where they are respected, both socially and professionally. Let us commit to achieve this objective in the best interests of the whole humanity.
The month of March is full of festivities. I extend my best wishes to you and your family members for a cheerful Holi, Mahavir Jayanti, Good Friday, Gudi Padava and Nowruz. Please note, while reminding us of our glorious past, all festivals inspire us to become benevolent and large-hearted human beings.
Let us celebrate our festivals in their true spirit and celebrate each other’s existence and well-being and work for inclusive growth.
With the rich legacy, the profession has the scalability to touch newer zeniths and achieve newer milestones. Your opinion and cooperation have always been crucial for the affairs of profession and I look forward to your continuous support to the profession.
Instead of making promises, I believe in creating examples. And I can assure you that we will do everything to uphold the tradition of integrity and accountability of our profession and continue to enhance its high image and identity among the stakeholders.
Let us work together towards excellence.
CA. Naveen N. D. Gupta