By MIA CPE Compliance Unit
The accountancy profession has experienced significant challenges as a result of the ever-changing financial reporting landscape and the increased legislation and rules regulating the profession. As a profession, accountants must stay relevant and are expected to keep abreast of latest developments relating to the accounting fraternity in order to adhere to the highest standards of ethics and professionalism.
Holding Professional Accountants to Higher Standards
Continuing Professional Development has become mandatory for many of the statutory professions in recent years, which recognise the importance of continued learning and development not only for accountants but all professionals. The Institute’s By-Laws have enforced the Continuing Professional Education (CPE) learning as a mandatory obligation for professional accountants. The Institute currently undertakes strict implementation of CPE requirements to ensure professional accountants are compliant with the Institute’s By-Laws. Any failure to maintain and improve professional competence is seen to be a violation of one of the fundamental principles of the profession and can lead to disciplinary action.
Recently, the Institute found a member guilty of professional misconduct for failing to maintain her CPE record and non-compliance with its CPE requirement. In the findings, the Institute placed emphasis on the dishonesty and integrity of the member, together with the importance of compliance with the CPE requirement.
The allegation surrounded the discrepancies in the member’s CPE record in which she had made a false declaration of CPE hours for the CPE courses which were registered under her name but not attended by her. The failure to comply with the CPE requirement, together with the false and misleading CPE records, showed a deliberate disregard by the member of her professional responsibilities, and that amounted to professional misconduct.
The Disciplinary Committee (DC) of the Institute concluded that the charge of non-compliance with CPE requirement and the fundamental principles on professional behaviour laid against the member was established which was tantamount to professional misconduct. Severe punishment was meted out to the member, including suspension of membership, and she was ordered to pay costs and expenses of the DC inquiry, and to gain more CPE credit hours in addition to the requirement of 20 structured CPE credit hours per annum. Pursuant to the Institute’s Disciplinary Rules, the Council shall publish the decision of the DC in the prescribed publications and inform all the relevant government licensing authorities, and any other associations of accountants with which the member was associated.
The decision sends a stern warning of the Institute’s seriousness with regard to CPE non-compliance, particularly where an element of dishonesty subsists.
Ensuring Competency of Professional Accountants
As a monitoring process, the Institute conducts CPE Audit annually to ensure the compliance of the professional accountants. As a step-up effort in safeguarding the public interest, the Institute has imposed more stringent CPE requirements on the Approved Company Auditors and Practising Certificate (PC) Holders. The Institute has made the CPE a mandatory requirement for the members to uphold their Audit License and PC status.
Should a practitioner fail to comply with the relevant CPE requirement, the Institute will have discretion to examine the reasons for the non-compliance. Where there is no justifiable basis for the failure, the Institute shall not support the member’s application for their renewal of audit licenses to the Accountant General and/or shall not renew their PC.
For 2018 / 2019, as a result of failing to comply with the CPE requirements, one member did not obtain the Institute’s support in the application of renewal of audit license. Further, the Institute had cancelled twenty PCs due to non-compliance with 2017 CPE requirements.
Comply Honestly with CPE to Enhance Skills, Uphold Public Interest
Accountancy is one of the most highly respected professions in the world and ethics is central to being respected and trusted. Professional accountants should take responsibility for their self-development to uphold the values of integrity, accountability and trust. Compliance with CPE requirement should not be a “box-ticking” exercise for professional accountants. Instead, they should take recognition of the fact that effective maintenance of professional skills and knowledge is a key component to stay competent, relevant and able to safeguard the public interest. One should not act dishonestly in fulfilling the CPE requirement as the Institute views this as a serious matter that impacts directly on the credibility and reputation of the accountancy profession.