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Pro-tem council set up to direct overhaul of accountancy sector
Michelle Quah
Fri, Jul 16, 2010
The Business Times

(SINGAPORE) Singapore is kick-starting the large- scale overhaul of its accountancy sector with the creation of a dedicated body to oversee the revamp.

The overhaul - proposed by the Committee to Develop the Accountancy Sector (CDAS) in April and accepted by the Finance Ministry in May - aims to transform Singapore into the region's global accountancy hub, with its own internationally recognised professional qualification, in 10 years.

The lofty ambitions were launched by Permanent Secretary for Finance and chairman of the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (Acra) Peter Ong at the Public Accountants Conference 2010 yesterday.

Mr Ong announced the setting up of a Pro-Tem Singapore Accountancy Council (SAC), a temporary body tasked with beginning the work of transforming the sector before a formal council is formed. He said the Pro-Tem SAC will lay down a governing framework and implementation roadmap for three key areas - among them, a $10 million Accountancy Sector Development Fund and a Singapore-branded professional accountancy qualification.

Heading the pro-tem council will be Bobby Chin, CDAS chairman and former managing partner of KPMG.

'Besides Mr Chin (who, as chairman of CDAS, is well placed to implement its recommendations), the Pro-Tem SAC will comprise other senior industry leaders from the public accountancy profession, the private and public sectors,' Mr Ong said.

He did not say who the other Pro-Tem SAC members will be, but BT understands from Mr Chin that the Finance Ministry will start appointing them soon.

The Pro-Tem SAC, with Acra's support, will then begin to lay the groundwork for the various CDAS recommendations to be implemented. Mr Chin expects the work to be completed within a year, by which time the formal SAC will have been formed.

'We will have to start work almost immediately, to keep the momentum going, to achieve our vision - although the recommendations will steam ahead at different paces, some on a faster track, others on a slower one,' he said.

To begin with, the Finance Ministry has tasked the Pro-Tem SAC with the development of three key initiatives:

The $10 million Accountancy Sector Development Fund and an Accountancy Services Research Centre;

The Singapore-branded professional accountancy qualification and the necessary accreditation processes; and

Specialisation pathways in business valuation, internal audit and risk management, and the professional development of chief financial officers.

The 'homegrown' globally recognised post-graduate accountancy qualification - essentially a Singapore version of professional credentials such as the ACCA - is seen as key to Singapore's aspirations towards becoming a leading global accountancy hub and financial centre.

Mr Chin likened the qualification to the Singapore Airlines brand - one that is internationally recognised, of the highest standard, and inspires trust and confidence. 'We want people to know that Singapore accountants are of the same quality,' he said.

Other key recommendations from CDAS that the Pro-Tem SAC will look into include: plans to consolidate the 500 small and medium-size practices here over a two-year period, which include giving them grants to help them cover post-merger integration costs; developing incentive programmes to encourage the sector to provide regional services outside Singapore; and reviewing the current audit exemption threshold.

Such a massive overhaul will be the first of its kind in the world - and a sign of the times, as the accountancy sector seeks to grasp business opportunities emerging from the global economic recovery.

Many have expressed confidence in this transformation of the sector, given the extensive consultation undertaken by CDAS between November 2008 and April this year. The committee is believed to have held more than 100 meetings with stakeholders.

CDAS has said the measures it proposes will more than double the accountancy sector's contribution to Singapore's gross domestic product - from 0.4 per cent ($1.06 billion) in 2008 to one per cent over the next decade.

'The future is very bright,' Mr Chin said. 'Singapore is part of Asia - a centre of growth. With the strong government support for these changes and the infrastructure we have in place, along with the good response from all stakeholders, I believe we will achieve our vision to be a global accountancy hub for the region in 10 years' time.'

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