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Speech by Senior Minister of State for Finance and Transport, Mrs Josephine Teo, at the CPA Australia 60th Anniversary Gala Dinner 2014

08 Oct 2014
Date: 08 October 2014
Venue: Fairmont Hotel, Raffles City Convention Centre
Speaker: Mrs Josephine Teo
Associate Professor Themin Suwardy, Divisional President, Singapore, CPA Australia
Mr Philip Yuen, Divisional Deputy President, Singapore, CPA Australia
Mr Graeme Wade, President and Chairman of the Board, CPA Australia
Mr Alex Malley, Chief Executive, CPA Australia
Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,
Good evening.
1. Good evening friends. It is with great pleasure that I join you this evening to celebrate the 60th anniversary of CPA Australia in Singapore. You have come a long way in this sterling journey, from the few hundred members in 1954, to a strong cohort of nearly 8,000 Certified Practising Accountants today.

Commend CPA Australia for its contributions to Singapore

2. First, I want to take this opportunity at the 60th anniversary of CPA Australia to acknowledge and commend you for the many contributions that you have made to the accountancy profession over the years. 

3. Coming from a non-accountancy background and working in the Ministry of Finance, I have the opportunity to interact with various professional bodies, and I have to say that it has always been a pleasure to work with CPA Australia, not least because it is being helmed by energetic leaders who obviously want to see the organisation make progress, want to put the organisation at the forefront of the industry in Singapore and want to make a contribution to its further development. And in that regard, you have a lot to be proud of. 

4. In the short time that I have been with the Ministry of Finance, I have received many invitations from CPA Australia that I often have difficulty saying no to, including one very memorable occasion – the International Accountants Day. It had never been done before and I was very curious what this event was about. I discovered upon arrival of that very special occasion, that I was supposed to dance! You saw a picture of that earlier; I think it was the most dignified picture they could find.  And I say this to you only because I want to acknowledge CPA as a trailblazer in many ways. 

5. The International Accountants Day is only one example. There are many more significant contributions as well. For example, the CFO Connect Symposium, an initiative that was also co-led by CPA Australia. There is another example of how CPA Australia tends to break the usual mould. If you look at the people who have been named to the top positions, Themin stands out, because I don’t think it is very common to find an academic helming a professional body, much less a professional accountancy body. So Themin is one of those unusual appointees and that says something about CPA Australia. 

6. But there is another appointee who is even more a trailblazer, and that is Deborah Ong. Deborah is the only woman that has been appointed to lead a major professional accountancy body in Singapore and remains so as far as I am aware of, and I hope she will not be the last! We have sadly still a dearth of women holding leadership positions, but I remain very hopeful that this will not always be the case. And since CPA Australia has been a trailblazer in this regard, I urge you to keep up with this record and find other ways to demonstrate your boldness and imagination. 

7. There is another way in which I would like to acknowledge CPA Australia’s trailblazing contributions. As the industry and business hub in Singapore has developed, there has also been a greater need for higher standards of corporate governance. In this regard, we all know that CPA Australia has been taking a very active role.  At your congress this morning, I am aware that you launched the Corporate Governance Case Studies led by Themin. And of course, we are also familiar with the annual Governance and Transparency Index, which CPA developed in conjunction with NUS Business School and the Business Times. Such efforts have helped to raise awareness on corporate governance issues, and they go a long way in directing businesses to do the right thing.

8. It is perhaps not surprising that CPA Australia is such a trailblazer in Singapore when you think about who are the people leading the organisation for many years, pre-dating Singapore’s independence and in fact, pre-dating Singapore’s self-governance.  This is really an organisation that pre-dates the Singapore we know today.

Commend the pioneers of CPA Australia in Singapore for their contributions to Singapore

9. I am delighted that the organisers saw fit to invite some of the pioneers to be here this evening. On behalf of everyone, thank you very much for your contributions. Whether you are an accountant or a business professional, each one of you has given much to the industry, contributing to the development of our nation, and transforming Singapore into the global financial hub that it is today. 

10. As we celebrate this special occasion and acknowledge our pioneers for their contributions, we should ask ourselves how we can uphold their legacy and move forward with the same bold and enterprising spirit. 

The accountancy sector can do so by uplifting the sector. 

11. I saw in the Business Times today, a quote by Philip Yuen about the technology advances that have taken away more routine work that accountants do, and how that means you can free up your time and resources to take on more value-adding work. I think that is very important and indeed what we would like to see as part of development of the accountancy profession in Singapore.

12. But there is another area that is also very important. As you know, Singapore has reached a stage of development where we believe that the future has to be co-created, it isn’t going to be entirely government-led in many regards. And the private sector, the people sector, have a lot that you can contribute to take Singapore forward. So it becomes very important that organisations such as CPA Australia find new ways to make your presence felt. 

13. One way is for the profession to uplift its people, by making accountancy careers more rewarding and meaningful than they already are.  There is much accountants can contribute to society, for example, by volunteering your knowledge and expertise in pro bono work.

14. I have been told of a recent initiative where CPA Australia has partnered with Pro Bono Australia to provide a listing of available pro bono positions for its members. These positions include bookkeeping, audit and treasury roles. This has encouraged accountants to volunteer by helping to match needs and expertise. 

15. At home, the Singapore Qualification Programme has also made commendable efforts in promoting pro bono work. The SQP is the first professional accountancy programme in the world that has made it a requirement for its candidates to perform 40 hours of pro bono work before they can qualify as Chartered Accountants. Examples of pro bono work include providing accountancy services for charities, and educating the youth on financial literacy. These are meaningful projects which contribute to financially responsible non-profit organisations and a financially literate population. 

16. The accountancy sector can take a leaf from its legal counterpart by encouraging more members to volunteer. Accountancy firms can encourage this by giving employees time off to perform pro bono work. As accountants, you can contribute your professional expertise to society in a way that few other people can. In time to come, with CPA Australia taking the lead, I hope we can grow a pool of accountancy professionals who volunteer regularly.

17. Ladies and Gentlemen, a strong accountancy sector is vital to Singapore’s role as a leading global business destination. CPA Australia’s presence is felt in a very positive way. I hope that you will continue to be a shining star in our accountancy landscape. Let me wish you, once again, the very best, for the next 60 years. Thank you.