The Institute of Chartered Accountants of the Caribbean is
taking steps to unite the activities of member bodies, build
training capacity and improve quality monitoring of professionals
and firms. The institute’s president, Angela Lee Loy, speaks to
Arvind Hickman.

Angela Lee Loy, ICACIt’s a
clear sign that times are changing when a public relations
specialist takes the helm of regional accountancy organisation, as
is the case at the Institute of Chartered Accountants of the
Caribbean (ICAC). Last month, Misha Lobban was appointed chief
executive of the ICAC, a body that aims to improve the
collaboration, training and quality control of the accountancy
profession across the Caribbean region.

Lobban is a qualified public relations practitioner with over 14
years’ experience. She has extensive knowledge of the local
profession, recently working for the Institute of Chartered
Accountants of Jamaica.

ICAC president Angela Lee Loy describes Lobban as a breath of fresh
air with the right mix of interpersonal skills and industry
knowledge for her new role. “Because of her communication skills,
she is able to assimilate very quickly some of the key issues and
bring it to the forefront,” Loy says.

The ICAC, a regional umbrella body, is an official member body of
the International Federation of Accountants. It provides a united
voice for about 3,000 accountants from nine member bodies.

Two-pronged strategy

The ICAC has planned two major projects this year: to introduce a
practice monitoring system throughout the region and to improve the
mobility of professionals across different jurisdictions.

The practice monitoring programme, which is being developed
alongside the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants, will
involve reviews and assessments of practitioners within ICAC member
territories to ensure they are complying with international rules
and standards, including IFRS.

Loy tells TA that some nations, such as Trinidad and
Tobago, and Guyana, have already established systems and processes
to implement the programme, while others, such as Barbados and
Jamaica, require more work. All member bodies will officially sign
to become part of the programme at the ICAC Annual Conference of
Accountants in Trinidad and Tobago in late June.

Loy adds: “If we can get practice monitoring instituted within
Trinidad and in some of the other jurisdictions, what that would do
is to raise the level of your profession because you have checks
and balances in place. For example, where you have a disciplinary
committee, an investigations committee [and] an appeals committee
to regulate the members, there would be more controls and balances.
I don’t think, in some cases, that the institutes are large enough
to have that level of checks and balances put in place. So, you are
going to find the [various states] are a bit different, but we all
aspire to be IFRS compliant within the region.

“What you’re also finding is that in some of the jurisdictions
there is a lot more training going on, but it is not as readily
available in the smaller states. So, therefore, you wouldn’t find
the same level of sophistication.”

On the issue of mobility, Loy explains it is important that
accountants are legally able to complete their duties across
different jurisdictions. “I could be a company and I do not have a
physical location in that jurisdiction, but can I operate in that
and sign the opinion as if I was in that jurisdiction? These are
things that can really make the region a single market.” she
says.

Single market goal

The ICAC’s plans are tied into the Caribbean Single Market and
Economy (CSME). The CSME is a government initiative comprised of 12
member states that aims to harmonise economic policy across the
region. The first phase will be implemented in 2008 and 2009 and
the second phase, which will involve the harmonisation of fiscal
policies and tax regimes, has been earmarked for implementation
between 2010 and 2015.

An issue that is being closely followed at ICAC level is the
International Accounting Standards Board’s (IASB) controversial
IFRS for SMEs proposal. Loy says the current draft of IFRS for SMEs
is still too onerous for most Caribbean SMEs. “I think the IASB
will soon have to see who are their stakeholders and audience,” she
says. “I’m not saying that there aren’t a lot of big companies, but
there are a lot of small companies. I would say that the economy is
based on small companies and I’m sure this is the same as it is in
Asia and parts of Eastern Europe. So I’m guessing the IASB is under
a lot of pressure right now.”

Loy says the ICAC has previously considered developing its own
micro-sized standard but will now adopt a wait-and-see approach to
the solution. She admits many Caribbean companies are simply too
small to consider using IFRS, or any watered-down versions, but is
all too aware that failure to improve IFRS implementation for the
larger end of the market could “put your country at a disadvantage
from an international perspective and that is a risk”. She adds:
“At an international level, people need to know that they are
comparing like with like and that is the risk of the profession not
complying. That is why we are doing the project with the
Inter-American Development Bank [IADB] in terms of raising the
standard of the profession.”

Although full IFRS has been adopted in the region, consistent
application and compliance has been a challenge. The ICAC is
forging a partnership with the IADB to secure funding for a
regional project to improve compliance and application of IFRS and
International Standards on Auditing.