Speech By Mrs Josephine Teo, Minister of State for Finance And Transport At The Singapore Accountancy Commission Launch01 Apr 2013
Mr Michael Lim, Chairman, Singapore Accountancy Commission,
Ladies and gentlemen
1. Good morning. I'm delighted to join you for the launch of the Singapore Accountancy Commission (SAC).
Formation of the SAC
2. The formation of the SAC marks an important milestone in the development of the accountancy sector in Singapore. On behalf of the Ministry of Finance, I join Michael in thanking everyone who has contributed to making this happen. A lot of work has gone into this endeavor.
3. The SAC has been tasked to spearhead efforts in promoting and deepening capabilities in the accountancy sector. This is an important goal as we seek to position the sector strongly for the future. The SAC fully recognises that much more can be achieved by bringing on board all stakeholders. Members of the accountancy community including practitioners, academia, professional bodies, and employers all have important contributions to make. As an umbrella body, SAC will have to pull together resources and coordinate the efforts of all stakeholders to achieve our common goal of transforming Singapore into a global accountancy hub for the Asia Pacific region. I am therefore heartened to hear that SAC has identified collaboration as one of its four key values as it continues its journey.
4. It is in this collaborative spirit that the Pro-Tem SAC had extensively engaged many stakeholders on the transitional arrangements which will be required as we introduce the Chartered Accountant of Singapore (CA Singapore) designation.
5. The Pro-Tem SAC convened a Singapore Qualification Programme (“Singapore QP”) Transitional Panel (“Panel”), chaired by Mr Yeoh Oon Jin, Executive Chairman of PricewaterhouseCoopers, to deliberate on these matters. The Panel comprised industry partners and academic leaders. The SAC Secretariat had also reached out to industry players, professional bodies such as ICPAS, CPA Australia and the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA), and conducted dialogue sessions with students at our local universities, who also have a stake in this transition. Feedback and comments received were carefully considered and taken into consideration during the deliberations by the Panel, and some of the feedback was also surfaced to my attention.
6. After six months of intense engagement with relevant stakeholders, the Panel has put up a set of recommendations, which the Pro-Tem SAC has endorsed. I am pleased to announce that the Ministry of Finance will accept all the recommendations on the transitional arrangements.
7. Let me highlight the transitional arrangements which impact two important groups of stakeholders. The first group are existing ICPAS members who are designated as Certified Public Accountants of Singapore (CPA Singapore). The second group are students who are either enrolled to commence or are currently in the midst of taking their accountancy degree programmes at our local universities.
CPA Singapore holders
8. First, the CPA Singapore holders. All existing CPA Singapore holders will be able to use the CA Singapore designation. This is because we recognise that many of our CPAs are respected professionals with years of industry experience. The transitional arrangements will allow them to enjoy their current standing and ensures that the professional practice of existing CPA Singapore holders remain unaffected. The decision will take effect with the first enrolment of the Singapore QP in July 2013.
9. I should add that in the last few years, we have seen the industry seeking to transform itself. In particular, ICPAS has taken concrete steps to raise the professional competence, standards and ethics of its members, and in fostering the development of the industry. Two significant steps include the Quality Assurance Framework which ICPAS rolled out early last year to raise technical competence and improve audit quality, and the Industry Development Roadmap.
10. These positive moves were taken into account when the Panel considered whether it should align the date of transition of CPA holders to the CA Singapore designation with the graduation of the first batch of CA Singapore holders, which is expected to be in 2015 at the earliest. In light of the encouraging steps that the industry has taken to transform itself, the Panel believes that an earlier transition sends a stronger signal to all stakeholders of a paradigm shift which is already happening for the accountancy sector.
Local Accountancy Undergraduates and Post-Graduate Students
11. Let me now turn to the local accountancy undergraduates and post-graduate students. There are some 3,000 students who are either registered to commence or are currently enrolled in accountancy degree programmes at our local universities (NUS, NTU, SMU and UniSIM). When these students chose the accountancy course, they had the understanding they could become CPA Singapore holders upon graduation. And so, the Panel believed they ought to enjoy the same treatment that we are extending to existing CPA Singapore holders. In other words, they should also be automatically converted to the CA Singapore designation when they attain the CPA Singapore title.
12. Pro-Tem SAC therefore recommends that specifically, those who have matriculated in 2012 or earlier will have until 31 December 2016 to complete their studies and the ICPAS course in order to qualify as ICPAS full members and therefore attain the CPA Singapore title. Exception is granted to allow an additional 2 years until 31 December 2018 for male students who are serving their full-time National Service. This is to ensure that the men are not disadvantaged as compared to the women.
13. The Pro-Tem SAC had considered the transitional arrangements for other stakeholder groups as well. They include students who have already graduated but not yet attained the CPA Singapore designation, and holders of other professional qualifications like the ACCA or CPA Australia.
14. I am assured that the Panel has carefully considered the feedback from all parties when formulating the recommendations. SAC will be engaging the respective stakeholders in the upcoming weeks to share more details on the transitional arrangements.
15. As the SAC continues to build on its initiatives, I urge all stakeholders to continue its steadfast support for the SAC. We are making good progress in the journey of transformation for the accountancy sector and we should press on to realise the vision of Singapore as a leading global accountancy hub and upholding higher standards of accountancy excellence. Let me wish the SAC a fruitful journey ahead – congratulations on your launch.
16. Thank you.