Preparing accountants for future challenges

--Md. Abdus Salam FCA

The Institute of Chartered Accountants of Bangladesh (ICAB) is integrating global practices and ethics in its curriculum to prepare accountants who will be able to produce credible financial statements and tackle future shocks in the financial sector.

Since the devastating economic and financial crisis of 2008-2009, the national institute is grooming its chartered accountants to take on tough time in protecting the companies they work with. We have incorporated curricula and syllabus that match global standards and meet demands of the time. We are following the same syllabus as in other countries. We have incorporated the ethics of International Federation of Accountants, the global organization for the accountancy profession.

The ICAB is a professional organization, supporting more than 1200 chartered accountants and 20,000 students. It provides insight and leadership to the accountancy and finance profession at home and abroad. A new kind of awakening is going on globally on the evaluation and standing of the accountancy and how people in the profession could be incorporated to foster national development.

The ICAB has a strategic partnership with Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW), the world’s oldest institution in the sector. The evaluation of the profession has increased in the last five years following the global financial crisis. It does not think that top leaders in the profession prepared for the global economic storms, which broke the financial systems around the world. The top brass should have foreseen the crisis much before it was unleashed. The debacle came because it was not in their planning process.

Accountants play key roles in ensuring financial transparency in trade and commerce and the financial sector. However, there is mistrust in the profession as there are allegations that CA firms help prepare false balance sheets, have the audit reports approved to evade taxes, or flatter balance sheets to attract investors. Many generalize without understanding the reality. Top management of any company is responsible for any false report, but accountants are always blamed.

The CAs in Bangladesh and around the world are now prepared and have repositioned themselves to counter any future challenge. We have asked our accountants to remain alert as crisis can come any time. It is now integrated in our planning process. We have arrangements with countries like Ireland and Australia so they accept ICAB’s certification. The organization is also going to sign mutually recognition’ arrangements with developed countries, including Canada. There are a few professions that can match the potential of chartered accountancy currently. Many of our students have found jobs overseas. There is even a possibility to send more CAs to Africa.

The Institute of Chartered Accountants of Bangladesh is overseeing whether the CA firms are properly auditing the balance sheets of respective companies. We have a quality assurance board, quality assurance department and technical and research committee. We also have an investigation and disciplinary committee. We regularly monitor whether audit reports have been prepared in line with the set guidelines. The ICAB takes action against the CA firms that fail to stick to the guidelines. Recently, we took punitive measures against some firms that were found guilty of misconduct. The ICAB is serious about ethics and standards of the International Federation of Accountants.

It is satisfied with the quality of audit reports being produced by the local accountants and auditors. They match international standards and are in line with corporate best practices. We are proud that the audit reports and financial statements awarded by the ICAB have won the highest number of South Asian Federation of Accountant awards. On the recent financial irregularities such as Hall-Mark Group that misappropriated more than Tk 2,500 crore from Sonali Bank. A company’s internal audit department should spot any irregularity. The difficulty with auditing is that auditors do not audit all the offices or branches of an office, company or bank. They audit randomly, on a risk-weighted basis.

Everybody thinks that as CAs certify the audit reports, they are responsible for irregularities. But that is not right. They cannot go through thousands of pages of company documents dealing with thousands of crores of taka within two months to unearth irregularities. It is not possible for them.

The number of students entering the accountancy profession is increasing day by day. On an average, 1,700 students enrol to study chartered accountancy a year.

The ICAB has also partnered with the office of the Comptroller and Auditor General in joining a Ka 450-crore World Bank project to audit the spending of the country’s union parishads, the last their of the local government.