Tuesday, 28 September 2010

The Malaysian Institute of Accountants is split – what’s next?

By ERROL OH
errol@thestar.com.my

PETALING JAYA: The outcome of the Malaysian Institute of Accoun-tants’s (MIA) AGM on Saturday indicates that the gap in the membership may be widening between small accounting firms on one side, and the rest of the fraternity on the other. The former are dissatisfied with the profession’s regulatory framework and, judging from the voting at the AGM, their call for change is gaining momentum.

Those at the meeting rejected four resolutions, endorsed by the MIA council, to raise the annual membership subscriptions and the annual practising certificate fee. Similar resolutions failed to secure enough votes at last year’s AGM.

On the other hand, six motions that had been proposed and seconded by two members got the nod. These motions were essentially gestures of protest against certain rules that govern the supervision of accounting practitioners.
Christina Foo says it’s up to the council to recommend action.
 
Newly-elected MIA council member Subramaniam Sankar, a senior audit partner in the accounting firm of HALS & Associates, had proposed all six motions. The seconder was Chan Kah Kooi, also with HALS & Associates.

Subramaniam told StarBiz that the next step for the MIA membership and the Government was to determine whether the institute should be a regulator or a professional association.

“If it is decided that the MIA is to be a regulatory body, then we need another professional association to represent our interests and to provide technical expertise. We can’t leave it to the international accounting bodies. We should have a Malaysian organisation,” he added.

Set up under the Accountants Act 1967, the MIA’s chief tasks are to regulate and develop the accountancy profession in Malaysia. It is in fact a hybrid organisation, embracing the roles of both a regulator and a professional body.

MIA vice president Christina Foo acknowledged that by voting against the resolutions and for the motions, the members represented at the AGM had spoken.

“It’s now for the council to deliberate on these matters and to recommend the appropriate actions. If we need to follow up with the other authorities – and these issues do involve them – we will liaise with them,” she said.

According to Foo, the council meetings for the year had been pre-scheduled and it was up to MIA president Abdul Rahim Abdul Hamid to call for an emergency meeting if necessary.

At the start of the AGM in Kuala Lumpur, which lasted over four hours, a member questioned Abdul Rahim’s eligibility to chair the meeting, alleging that the president was not independent.

When members wanted to put this to a vote, Abdul Rahim instead stepped aside and Foo took over.

The dissenting mood continued when the resolutions and motions were tabled. The voting was via ballots, when it became clear that a show of hands would not go unquestioned.

One of the motions proposes that “necessary steps be taken so that all matters that affect only the rights of members in practice be voted upon only by members in practice.”

Another motion proposes that the MIA council takes steps to control the interview process for the issuing of audit licences, instead of a panel comprising various third parties and the MIA as the minority.

Subramaniam also proposed that there be a separate register for practitioners “so as to accord them with respective rights and obligations required to be in practice.”

The members at the AGM also agreed with the motion that the council should make efforts to abolish the need to renew audit licences every two years.

Subramaniam said if efforts to push for these changes through the MIA failed, it might be necessary for the practitioners to bypass the institute.

He is vice president of the Malaysian Association of Small and Medium Accounting Firms, which currently has about 50 members.

In contrast, the MIA has a total membership of almost 27,000. About two thirds of these are professional accountants in business, while a quarter of this population are in public practice.

According to the MIA’s latest annual report, as at June 30, it had 2,036 member firms, including 1,356 audit firms.

Industry insiders reckoned that at least 1,500 firms could be considered small.