By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
The Bahamas Institute of Chartered Accountants’ (BICA) president yesterday said accountants must strive to protect the profession’s “privilege” of self-regulation, adding that it was dealing “internally” with challenges surrounding its June annual general meeting (AGM).
Darnell Osborne told Tribune Business that while BICA has been dealing with internal challenges, it would likely emerge better for it.
“I think we are going to come out better because of it,” she said. “Due to the sensitivity of some of the matters now which are being dealt with by our internal discipline processes, I am not a liberty to discuss in detail but we did have some internal challenges surrounding our AGM. I’m happy to say that we are resolving those and it will be dealt with internally.
Tribune Business revealed in September that a legal battle was brewing over allegations of “voting irregularities” in electing BICA council members.
Reece Chipman, SMS Consultants’ principal and a BICA council member, confirmed to this newspaper he had initiated litigation against the Institute for defamation over allegations he had been responsible for tampering with proxy election ballots. He denied the claims.
An August 17, 2015, letter sent by Mrs Osborne to BICA members detailed the concerns over the June 30 AGM and issues with the council member election.
She wrote then: “The Scrutineers Report identified serious alleged breaches by a Council member(s) and others. Based on the scrutineers’ report, the proxy process was breached.
“These breaches included removal of proxies from sealed envelopes; destruction of proxy logs; altering of the membership listing and submission of fraudulent proxies with forged signatures.”
Meanwhile, while addressing the opening of Accountants Week seminars at the Melia Nassau Beach Resort, Mrs Osborne said the new BICA Act 2015, which was passed in April and came into effect on October 1, introduced several new concepts.
She added that the regulations to accompany the Act will be discussed at the Association’s AGM on Thursday.
“The new Act has replaced the Public Accountants Act, 1991 and provides for several new concepts; namely – the introduction of practice monitoring/peer review; the initiation of investigations and disciplinary proceedings by the Council on its own; the addition of provisions for practicing public accountancy with limited liability; the introduction of international requirements for compliance with continuing professional development; and the continuity of Council membership, as the current one-year tenure is deemed too short,” said Mrs Osborne.
“Additionally, the legislation will provide for – the limit of the president’s term of office to two years; the appointment of a president elect; the reduction in the number of Council members to 13; the inclusion of guidelines for the renewal and restoration of licenses; the clarification of renewal of licenses for persons whose licenses were expired for one or more years; and the formal adoption of the International Ethics Standards Board for Accountants (IESBA) Code of Ethics.
“The importance of this achievement cannot be overstated, particularly as the many institutional changes which were necessary are now included in the new legislation.”
As a member of the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC), The Bahamas has specific mandates set to comply with.
These mandates are to ensure BICA’s compliance in quality assurance; international education standards for professional accountants; international auditing and assurance standards; a code of ethics for professional accountants based on the IESBA (International Ethics Standards Board for Accounting); International Accounting Standards (IAS) and investigations and discipline.
BICA’s failure to implement programmes under these mandates resulted in the institute’s suspension from IFAC in June 2012. The suspension was lifted only after initial steps were taken to implement an action plan that included legislative amendments, with the new Act empowering BICA to carry out its IFAC mandate.
Mrs Osborne said: “The Bahamas remains one of the few countries where the accounting profession is strictly self-regulating. We must protect this privilege.
“While it is sometimes difficult, not always pleasant and often unpopular, we must be willing to choose the course of action necessary to ensure our esteemed profession continues to be respected, not only on a national scale but also internationally,” she added.
“We have taken the investigations and discipline committee out of the Council so it is chaired by independent, senior members of the profession. We now have an independent structure and discipline process. We have the committee being able to initiate disciplinary action against any member once a proper written complaint is received We no longer require an affidavit; it’s less cumbersome.
“Our new investigations and discipline process is external to theCouncil and so I’m not privy to what is happening there. I wait for their report and their action. It’s completely independent of me and the Council, which is good.”