The Ministry of Finance is looking into empowering the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (Acra) to inspect audit firms' quality controls and policies and, where necessary, mete out sanctions for lapses as part of a review of the Accountants Act, Senior Minister of State for Law and Finance Indranee Rajah said yesterday.
The move would bring Singapore in line with the United States, United Kingdom and Australia, Ms Indranee told the gathering at the Singapore Accountancy and Audit Convention 2017. She said more details will be released in due course.
Commenting on the review of the Accountants Act, Professor Tan Cheng Han, Acra board member and chairman of the Public Accountants Oversight Committee, said: "The trust that investors place in our markets is due in part to the robust audit oversight we have in place. Such legislative reviews help ensure high audit quality standards are upheld."
Acra will be inviting the public accountancy sector and the general public to provide feedback on proposed legislative amendments to the Accountants Act in due course.
Ms Indranee, in her speech, said that while the Asian Corporate Governance Association has commended Acra's audit inspection programme as "among the best in the region", Singapore must continue its efforts to raise the bar for audit quality.
However, she said regulatory changes per se are insufficient for Singapore to be a global accountancy hub and the profession must be ready for the technology revolution. "As the use of technology in the workplace intensifies, firms must innovate and use more technology to offer higher-value, insight-driven services," she said.
GAINING INVESTORS' TRUST
The trust that investors place in our markets is due in part to the robust audit oversight we have in place. Such legislative reviews help ensure high audit quality standards are upheld.
PROFESSOR TAN CHENG HAN, Acra board member and chairman of the Public Accountants Oversight Committee, commenting on the review of the Accountants Act.
The transformation of the accountancy sector will bring about many new job opportunities. By 2020, accounting firms are expected to employ about 21,000 accountancy professionals.
In line with this, Ms Indranee announced two initiatives to support the growth of the sector.
One initiative, the Skills Framework for Accountancy, allows individuals to explore career advancement opportunities along or across six identified tracks within the sector, which cover 25 job roles. These tracks include assurance, financial accounting, management accounting, internal audit, business valuation and tax.
The framework provides key information on the sector, and identifies a total of 84 current and emerging skills and competencies required for each job role.
Some of the emerging skills and competencies include data analytics, infocomm technology adoption and innovation, and valuation research and analysis.
There will also be information on training programmes, which will help aspiring individuals and those already working in the sector acquire skills required for various jobs.
The second initiative, dubbed Sapphire, helps accounting firms to adopt the Skills Framework and integrate technology at the workplace.
Companies can tap on Sapphire to incorporate progressive human resource (HR) and industrial relations practices and the Skills Framework into their HR function, helping them to improve talent attraction and development capabilities.
They can also integrate technology with their culture, work processes and skills upgrading to enhance the company's productivity and growth. Firms will receive a 70 per cent subsidy from Workforce Singapore for up to 100 hours of consultancy advice per project.