Uttam Agarwal is taking on the
presidency of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in India at
one of the most critical times in the institute’s 50-year history.
He speaks with Carolyn
Canham
about dealing with the Satyam scandal and
his action plan for the coming year.

The Institute of Chartered Accountants in India (ICAI) has had
more than its fair share of media coverage recently. As the body
responsible for the regulation of the profession it has had to act
quickly in response to the Satyam Computer Services fraud and
investigate any potential involvement by the accountancy
profession.

New president Uttam Agarwal has been at the heart of the action,
chairing the high-level committee established by the institute to
investigate any professional misconduct by its members.

The most recent issue to arise was the
appointment of jailed Price Waterhouse partner
S Gopalakrishnan as a member of 11 of the ICAI’s 41 non-standing
committees for the coming year. Gopalakrishnan is being detained in
connection to the Satyam fraud.

On the defensive

“I am the president and he is a
member of my council. I have to consider him as a member and if he
is a member I have to appoint him as a member of the committees,”
he says.

“If it is found that he is guilty, then he has
to resign from the committee.”Uttam Prakash

The high level committee recently released an
interim report that gave no findings or conclusions into the audit
of Satyam’s accounts. Agarwal says none can be made until Satyam’s
accounts have been restated and certified by an Indian chartered
accountant firm.

This slight lull in the proceedings could
provide the new president with a chance to focus on the rest of the
busy action plan he has put forward for his year-long
presidency.

Agarwal has been a member of the ICAI central
council since 2004. He is deeply involved in the profession at both
the Indian and international level.

On the local front he chairs the three ICAI
standing committees – executive, finance and examination.

He also chairs the disciplinary board and the
perspective planning, diamond jubilee and international affairs
committees.

Other roles include editor of the institute’s
monthly journal The Chartered Accountant and chairman and a
director on the board of the ICAI Accounting Research
Foundation.

Separate from the institute, Agarwal is a
member of the National Advisory Committee on Accounting Standards,
which falls under the Ministry of Corporate Affairs, and a member
of the Audit Advisory Board and the Government Accounting Standards
Advisory Board, which are both the responsibility of the
Comptroller and Auditor General of India.

Other boards he sits on include ones relating
to internal audit, the regulation of the insurance industry and
XBRL implementation.

Agarwal’s international roles include
technical adviser on the International Federation of Accountants
SMP committee.

Raising both the international and national
profile of the ICAI is one aspect of Agarwal’s action plan. One
idea for gaining more positive attention is to focus on work
surrounding issues such as climate change.

“That is an issue that will be having a lot of
impact in future. As an international issue I want to take up from
the institute’s side,” Agarwal says.

Another goal is to come up with a five-year
perspective plan for the CA course. This will address issues such
as building the skill-sets of students to include areas such as
communication, presentation, IT and team leadership skills.

Agarwal would also like to see the course
develop branches in areas such as IT practice, corporate audits and
business valuation.

One recent important change in the Indian
accounting landscape is new provisions to allow for limited
liability partnerships. Agarwal wants to raise awareness of this
and see more firms moving to LLP status.

He says this is important as it provides the
opportunity to bring more professionals together in one firm and
opens the possibility of Indian firms competing more widely at an
international level.

Another feature of Agarwal’s plan ties back to
the Satyam scandal. He is determined to defend the public
perception of the chartered accountant.

“Whatever [is found in the Satyam case] we
will bring before the public and if there is a fault of any person,
we will punish them very seriously. Because of one person the whole
profession cannot be blamed,” he says.

“[If a doctor sells a] kidney, which they take
out in the course of an operation, that does not mean that all
doctors are not good.”