Monday, April 15, 2002

'We are watchdogs, not bloodhounds': ICAI president

Pointing out fraud is for the regulators. Our job is to give them the information. What they do with it is their business.
Gautam Chikermane
When Ashok Chandak took charge as president of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI) on 5 February 2002, his role, it seemed, was cut out. A month into being in office (on March 8), against the backdrop of the dubious role of Andersen, the Enron auditors, in the US energy giant’s debacle, he passed his first resolution, which stated that an accounting firm cannot charge a company higher fees for consulting than for auditing its accounts. As head of the first accountants body to do so in the world, Chandak has caught the post-Enron-and-the-resultant-clean-up bus running. In an interview with Gautam Chikermane, Chandak touches upon the various aspects of regulating accountants. Scalded by criticism of the ICAI’s regulatory role (See 'Make accountants accountable'), Chandak began the interview on the front foot. Excerpts:
Do you think the accounting profession is accountable?
In the past 50 years, we have had the best self-regulatory mechanism–1,650 cases have been sent to the high court, an equal number would have been punished by the institute. The total number of cases considered: more than 10,000. Now, you tell me how many have been found guilty in other self-regulated organisations. I would say that we have the best record of regulation in the country. Besides, you should not look at statistics alone. You should consider the quality of regulation.
Why then are aspersions being cast on the profession today? Why is it felt that accountants are not accountable?
You say that auditors don’t do their jobs. Fine. Can you give me just 10 audit reports where the various regulators who get these reports (Registrar of Companies, Income Tax authorities, banks, RBI, Sebi or the stock exchanges) have taken action on the basis of the auditor’s qualifications? You won’t be able to do that because nobody takes these reports seriously. We are not regulators–and we don’t want to be regulators.
Interview in Outlook Money

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