Senate Approves Amendments To Public Accountancy Act


In a move to improve the capability of the Public Accountancy Board to carry out its functions, the Senate on Friday (Jan. 30) passed amendments to the Public Accountancy Act, which will clarify and intensify the responsibilities and functions of the board.
The changes will provide for higher standards of professional conduct within the accountancy profession to allow for improved monitoring of the work of registered public accountants and also allow the courts to impose higher monetary penalties on persons who are not registered Public Accountants but who engage in the practice of accountancy in Jamaica.
Minister of Justice and Attorney General, A.J. Nicholson who tabled the Bill, explained that the amendments would allow the courts to impose a fine of up to $2 million, instead of the current fine of $100, and $4 million instead of $400 on non-registered persons who commit certain breaches of the Act. Also, the definition of actions that do not constitute a breach of the Act by non-registered persons is to be widened.
The Board will now be empowered to register applicants who qualify for registration as a public accountant and who satisfy other requirements established by the board.
“There are some itinerants who pass through and sign documents and that should stop. The practitioner needs to be constantly exposed to changes in the economic and legislative environment and must maintain currency of knowledge if he or she is to practice effectively. The board wishes to be in a position to outlaw the practice of persons living abroad and merely signing audit reports almost in absentia,” Minister Nicholson stated.
To this end, the Board has the power to establish systems for the review of the products, methods and records of work of registered public accountants to ensure adherence to; any prescribed standard of professional conduct; and established accounting and auditing standards. The Board may also make, with the approval of the Minister of Finance and Planning, rules in relation to the promotion by the Board in the public interest of acceptable standards of professional conduct among registered public accountants. In addition, the Board can remove from the register persons who no longer qualify to be registered public accountants.
One point of contention in the Senate was the fact that under the legislation, in order to be registered by the Board, applicants must be a member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Jamaica (and ordinarily a resident of Jamaica) or be qualified to practice the profession in any country other than Jamaica.
Opposition Senator Bruce Golding argued that as long as the person was qualified, the Board should have the power to authorize Public Accountants to practice regardless of whether or not the applicant was a member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Jamaica or qualified to practice outside of Jamaica.
“I believe that the determination as to who should practice should rest with the Board. Let the Institute do the professional work that all professional associations do,” Golding declared, citing an example, “If you qualify to be a doctor, you don’t have to be a member of the Medical Association of Jamaica, but you have to satisfy the requirements of the Medical Council of Jamaica”.
Supporting the Bill, Opposition Senator Shirley Williams called for similar legislation for firms, stating, “While we are looking at empowering the Public Accountancy Board, which is welcome, we must post haste, establish in law, a similar board that is going to monitor firms and where firms are going to be audited for their standards and their professionalism and to ensure that the public is assured that there is some amount of confidence in the audit process”.
Other changes in the Act, Senator Nicholson further said, would empower the Minister to determine the rates of salary payable in respect of certain posts in order to facilitate quick revision of salaries and bring the Act in line with similar legislation. He said the amendments followed a certain pattern that existed in the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States, pointing out that those countries had to some extent established a regulatory body, which was in some respects similar to the Public Accountancy Board.

JIS Social