Monday, June 18, 2012

Integrating material sustainability information into corporate reports should be a key and critical outcome of Rio +20, urges ACCA

A defined goal centred on sustainability reporting by companies ‘a must’ at global summit

Corporate reporting needs to be brought into the 21st century by integrating material sustainability information into corporate reports, asserts ACCA today ahead of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, which will take place in Rio, Brazil this month.

To influence policy makers and create debate prior to the Rio+20 summit, ACCA publishes a paper which looks at possible changes to a key aspect of the discussions – paragraph 24 - which is concerned with the integration of material sustainability information into the corporate reports of listed and large private companies.

Arif Masud Mirza, Head of ACCA Pakistan says: “To make a difference, Rio+20 needs to have goals that are achievable and actionable – one of those goals should focus on the need for a global approach to sustainability reporting. Long term value is enhanced by companies embedding sustainability into their business strategy and key processes, rather than treating sustainability information as a mere add on activity. The long term viability of companies has to be at the heart of corporate decision making.

“An effective and workable paragraph 24 would emphasise the relevance of sustainability to investors and business. It would spread good practice, and emphasise the relevance of sustainability to investors and businesses. Rio+20 should be aiming for this goal – not just for companies and investors, but for the planet itself.”

ACCA believes that:

·         paragraph 24 should lead to a commitment by UN member states to develop mechanisms for sustainability reporting at a national level; while such national reporting would need to meet global standards, flexibility in the mechanisms applied to meet the standards would allow for country-specific solutions
·         paragraph 24 should obligate companies to report on a ‘comply-or-explain’ basis; this requirement would provide appropriate flexibility and would stimulate substantive board discussions on risks and opportunities arising from sustainable development.

Arif Masud Mirza adds: “There is a ground swell of opinion on this issue, led most recently by Aviva Investors through a coalition of investors, NGOs and UN agencies, as well as ACCA. This coalition recently called for a commitment from UN member states to work on an international agreement requiring companies to integrate sustainability issues in their annual report and accounts, on a report or explain basis.  The coalition believes this would be a realistic, tangible and meaningful success.

“However, whatever the policy outcome at Rio+20, there will be a need for rigorous and credible arrangements to map out and assess the fulfilment of any undertaking, whether voluntary or binding. This is where accountants come in – the profession provides the much needed transparency, measurement and comparability required for common international reporting.”

ACCA’s paper includes a series of expert views on this issue from our Global Forum for Sustainability members and other voices from the accountancy profession; the Forum was established in 2011 to bring together leading thinking on sustainability and the role of accountants.

Victor Anderson, senior policy officer at WWF UK: “The most important fact about Rio is likely to turn out to be that it is not the end of the process. It is increasingly clear that it has acted as a major catalyst for debates, campaigns, and detailed work, and that all this will continue for many years after Rio.”

ACCA Global Forum calls for more government departments to focus on small businesses

As global leaders prepare to attend the G20 summit in Mexico (18 – 19 June), they have been urged to offer more support to Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs) in gaining access to finance, by ensuring that a more widespread approach is taken to policy development for the sector and that there are greater levels of co-ordination at a global level.

The ACCA (Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) Global Forum for SMEs has said in its new Global Agenda on Access to Finance for SMEs, that more co-ordinated and consistent efforts are needed when it comes to SME financing policy.

Mexico, which holds the Presidency of the G20 for 2012, has put fostering financial inclusion to promote economic growth among its five priorities for the G20 this year. The Global Forum's agenda outlines the challenge facing the G20 in these areas, saying that SMEs around the world need - but are not receiving $4 trillion in financing - and that official ‘SME’ or ‘enterprise’ policy forms only a small part of the actual policies relevant to the development of SMEs.

The Global Forum calls for more attention to be given to how central government departments, particularly those departments responsible for fiscal policy, justice or employment law have an impact on SMEs’ access to finance – through their decisions on tax policy on equity funding, setting up or developing better access to efficient credit information facilities right through to well-functioning property and contract law frameworks.

Official institutions, such as banks, through which these funds and products are often channelled, need to be encouraged to promote them more actively to their SME clients. The agenda also says that while banks remain the most significant source of external finance for formal small firms, bank finance is generally only available to those businesses that can offer collateral or a strong record of generating profit. This leaves a large number of SMEs which need large investments, but which have mostly intangible assets.

While the microfinance sector is offering a promising solution by tapping into social networks on the ground for the information that banks are missing, the extent to which it helps the SME sector needs to be better understood at a macro level, especially where experiences from a number of markets can be shared. The option of equity finance also needs to be improved, and emerging and innovative financing solutions need to be encouraged and supported, including 'crowd funding', which uses online communities for raising equity.

The agenda also says that SMEs should also be encouraged to consider how they use technological solutions in helping them with financial management and calls for the skills gap among business owners need to be addressed. Very few have formal enterprise or management training which has an impact on their ability to access finance – from having the knowhow to present a business plan, navigating through the financial markets on offer, to knowing how to apply business skills and acumen to manage and grow their business with a strategic approach to its operations, and ultimately finance.

It calls on the accountancy profession to work with governments and other relevant institutions such as SME bodies, to provide financial literacy and management training for owner-managers. The Forum urges international organisations to work with national governments to encourage much wider use of such initiatives in the interest of raising the level of skills, with a particular emphasis on working with the existing SME intermediaries to enable a reliable access to the sector.

“In Pakistan and in most developing economies, the issues and problems faced by SME businesses are fairly similar. There is a definite  need for establishing training / financial management / consulting institutes to help SMEs in developing corporate governance, plans, systems / processes and training of staff. Region / Country specific recommendations are needed focusing on  adherence to Tax Culture, Private / Public partnerships, Documentation, Etc. To encourage SME growth, government and public administration should establish SME centric facilities to expedite formalities while reducing the red tape.  Financial Institutions focus on Risk Mitigation & Coverage. Creation of Insurance / Takaful products with focus on SME specific risks will provide the impetus needed to invest in SME sector. In Pakistan, Leasing and Modarabas are a major source of funding for SMEs. Banks could be encouraged by the Regulators to provide relatively cheaper funding lines to Leasing & Modarabas”, said Arjumand Minai, Member - ACCA Global Forum for SMEs and CEO, Standard Chartered Leasing Limited, Pakistan.

“There are a range of issues which policy makers, banks and the accountancy profession need to address and we urge the G20 to consider many of these problems at its meeting. There are persistent market failures that stand in the way of a long-lasting change in SME financing across the world and we hope the G20 can begin to address them, and we look forward to discussing these issues further with G20 members and other bodies around the world,” said Arif Masud Mirza, Head of ACCA Pakistan.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

‘Strategy for growth’: ACCA Pakistan to deliberate on the budget 2012-13

Every year, ACCA Pakistan submits its budget proposals to the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) and the theme for the budget proposals 2012-13 is strategy for growthACCA Pakistan’s budget proposals support fair taxation policies by making recommendations aimed at enterprise growth, social equality, environment conversion and promoting savings and investments. In order to facilitate industry, government and financial expert engagement and perspective sharing on the shape of the upcoming Federal Budget, ACCA Pakistan is organising a Pre-Budget Seminar at Serena Hotel, Islamabad on 27 April 2012. 

Strong fiscal policies backed by long term stability are the need of the hour for a sustainable economic growth of Pakistan. Fiscal measures with long term strategy are required to create opportunities for investment, industrialisation and employment generation. Power shortages and inflation are the two key challenges faced by our economy and the improved tax collection system can lead the growth of business in the country.

In the session, ACCA Pakistan and other experts will discuss various recommendations on the upcoming budget 2012-13. The seminar speakers include Mumtaz Haider Rizvi, Chairman, Federal Board of Revenue (FBR), Yaser Sakhi Butt, President, Islamabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ICCI), Malik Munir, Member ACCA Pakistan Taxation Sub-committee, and Ayla Majid, Vice Chairperson, ACCA Pakistan Members Network Panel along with Arif Masud Mirza, head of ACCA Pakistan and Noor Aftab, head of ACCA Islamabad. The seminar will be attended by economists, employers and members from the financial fraternity.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Press Release: Developed countries making errors on PPP – report

Press Release: Developed countries making errors on PPP – report
ACCA publishes review of PPP/PFI around the world

Developed economies are using Public Private Partnerships (PPP) in a fashion more appropriate for developing economies, according to a major new research project from ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants). The research commissioned by ACCA and conducted by Manchester Business School, Taking Stock of PPP and PFI around the world, is the first global comparison of different countries’ PPP programmes.

The report uncovers developed economies with sound institutional frameworks for PPP but struggling to deliver value for money. Meanwhile developing economies have poor PPP monitoring and review frameworks but are forging ahead with PPP projects that deliver otherwise unaffordable key infrastructure.

‘PPP in the developed world should be very different to PPP elsewhere,’ says Professor Graham Winch of Manchester Business School. ‘However, many developed economies are still approaching PPP as if they were developed economies: hoping to use PPP to procure infrastructure they can’t afford thanks to public spending constraints. It delivers infrastructure, but at a far higher cost than otherwise might be expected. Is this cost too high? Taxpayers and public spending watchdogs seem inclined to think it is.

‘This approach has resulted in a pretty bad reputation for PPP amongst the public in some developed economies, but developing economies shouldn’t let this put them off PPP. For developing economies, PPP isn’t a luxury but a necessity. However, the speed with which developing economies are adopting PPP in their public procurement is leaving institutional monitoring and oversight behind. The use of PPP might be necessary, but if they’re not careful, developing economies could be in for a nasty PPP surprise in the coming decades as poor planning and oversight of projects comes back to bite them.’

The report found that:
·         There’s no common PPP definition around the world. Broadly, it is the use of private finance to provide public infrastructure but agreement generally ends there.
·         Only in rare cases can private finance offer greater value for money than traditional public sector procurement. Private finance is generally more expensive than public finance, there is a high premium payable for risk transfer, and there are important accountability issues around the commitments made by the public sector to private finance providers.
·         Developed economies behave like developing economies. The additionality of PPP – providing otherwise unavailable funds for public procurement – is more likely to be of benefit in developing countries, where capital typically comes from outside the country (due to low national wealth) and the economic stimulus is relatively larger. In reality, almost all countries use PPP for additionality reasons, no matter the official justification. The UK, for example, has for three decades pursued a form of pseudo-additionality with regards to PPP. This has provided infrastructure sooner than otherwise available, but it has created a huge debt overhang on the public sector and few projects have achieved value for money. Singapore, on the other hand, with large national reserves, is committed to PPP on a value for money basis and consequently uses PPP very rarely.
·         Accounting treatments matter more in developed economies. Accounting treatment of PPP is likely to have a greater impact on the attractiveness of PPP in countries with public spending constraints (i.e. developed countries) because it determines the border between ‘on’ and ‘off’ the public balance sheet. The evidence is that accounting treatment is not a subject of national debate in countries without strict public spending constraints.
·         Value for money monitoring is lax in developing economies. Value for money is the only official justification for PPP in developed economies. Countries like Japan and the UK must assure stakeholders that PPP is the procurement option with the best value for money, which can lead to strong institutional frameworks for PPP evaluation and monitoring. In countries where meeting the growing demand for infrastructure is more important than meeting that need efficiently, guidelines for value for money assessment remain under-developed or absent.
The report contains a breakdown of the history PPP and other variants of private finance around the world, as well as case studies from developing and developed countries (including, the UK, China, Singapore, France, Japan, Malaysia, India, Thailand, South Korea, and Indonesia).

‘PPP has been a bold experiment in public sector procurement over the past couple of decades, in terms of its scope and innovation,’ says Arif Masud Mirza, head of ACCA Pakistan. ‘Like all experiments, there have been mistakes, errors, and misunderstandings, but also some successes. Despite the problems, private finance has firmly established itself as a fixture in public sector procurement around the world and looks set to remain prominent. It will be interesting to see how PPP develops in the future, with improvements required in both developed and developing economies. Developing economies have several institutional improvements to make, while developed economies are still searching for the elusive value for money.

‘The report is the first of its kind and represents a valuable contribution to our understanding of the state of PPP around the world.’

Monday, March 26, 2012

Global accountancy body discusses the future of the profession in Afghanistan

Global accountancy body discusses the future of the profession in Afghanistan
- Developing economies need finance professionals
- Partnerships are essential to growing the profession in Afghanistan

ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) hosted an event on 14 March to discuss the future of the accountancy profession in Afghanistan.

The Afghanistan Stakeholders’ Roundtable was held in Dubai, and was attended by a number of experts with interests in building the accountancy profession in the country, from employers representing a wide range of sectors including public practice, banking institutions and non-governmental organizations. Other experts from the various multilateral agencies were also represented, including:

·         Dr Ahmad Abdullah Almeghames, Deputy Chairman, PAODC, International Federation of Accountants (IFAC)
·         Ms Jennifer Thomson, South Asia Manager, The World Bank; and
·         Mr Richard Sunderland, Director, British Council.

The event was hosted by the ACCA Emerging Markets – Asia directorate and Ms Lucia Real-Martin, Director Emerging Markets – Asia for ACCA delivered the opening remarks and set the scene for the day’s discussions.

Speaking at the event, Lucia Real-Martin said: “Essentially, developing and growing economies need skilled and talented finance professionals, and Afghanistan is no different in this respect. The whole point of the roundtable was to understand what it means to grow the accountancy profession in Afghanistan, and discuss the benefits that the profession can bring to economies, not just in Afghanistan, but also on a global stage.”

Reza Ali, Head of Emerging Markets – Asia ACCA added: “The event also emphasised the need for ACCA to work in partnership with relevant bodies in Afghanistan, from employers to the government to universities and learning partners. Partnerships are incredibly important to ACCA and we have developed a substantial global network of partnerships which are central both to ACCA’s ability to deliver its qualifications and services internationally and which also contribute to developing the accountancy profession. ACCA is committed to supporting the development of the profession in Afghanistan in partnership with all the other key stakeholders in the country.”

The event came on the back of an ACCA Afghanistan Learning Partners Forum which was led by Dr Afra Sajjad, Regional Head of Education, MENASA, ACCA a day earlier. The aim of the forum was to share best practices in accountancy learning and education with representatives from Afghan universities including Bakhtar University and the American University of Afghanistan.

Speaking at the forum, Afra Sajjad said: “This event is the first step towards working with learning partners and universities in Afghanistan to developing quality learning support enabling young people of Afghanistan to realise their dreams of becoming global professional accountants.”

Rafiullah Sherzad, Senior Project Manager, Harakat Foundations, one of the delegates at the event said: “The Afghanistan Stakeholders’ Roundtable was the beginning of an inspiring and effectual development of accountancy and the audit profession in Afghanistan The involvement and assistance of ACCA in this emerging profession in a post-war country such as Afghanistan is very essential. I hope ACCA along with key stakeholders keep the commitments and overcome the challenges to support the profession and contribute to rejuvenating Afghanistan.”

Lucia Real-Martin concluded: “It was an incredibly interesting session, and one which filled me with a sense of optimism about the future for the profession in Afghanistan, but also across the whole of South Asia. Yes, there are challenges ahead, but by working together we can build capacity and look to the future. ACCA is committed to the development of the profession.”

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

ACCA Pakistan recognises new members

ACCA Pakistan held its New Members Ceremony in Islamabad on Monday, 27 February 2012 to celebrate the achievement of 75 new ACCA members from the north region, who have attained the membership milestone during the last year. The ceremony commenced with welcome address, delivered by Ms. Noor Aftab, head of ACCA Islamabad who welcomed the new members to the ACCA fraternity and motivated them to continue their training and development through Continuous Professional Development for successful career progression. Ms. Noor advised the new ACCA Members to work for Pakistan’s financial landscape - securing Pakistan’s economic future. Later, Arif Masud Mirza, head of ACCA Pakistancongratulated the new members on their remarkable success and shared with them the benefits of professional training and development required by these new members in order to excel further in their career.

The ceremony was graced by the presence of Mr Mumtaz Haider Rizvi, Chairman Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) as the chief guest. Mr Rizvi presented awards to ACCA's long standing workplace mentors in Pakistan including Waqar Zafar Ahmed, partner Ernst and Young Ford Rhodes Sidaat Hyder and Co. Chartered Accountants and Saleem Akhter Bhatti, Head Finance & Accounts and Company Secretary, Khushali Bank Limited.

In his address, Mr Mumtaz Haider Rizvi appreciated the efforts of ACCA for providing excellent education and employment opportunities. ‘ACCA Pakistan provides a unique platform for young accountants who understand the heart of business activity and also enables them to work for the betterment of their country by acquiring latest finance and accounting skills.’

Qaiser Abbas, Founder & Chief Inspiring Officer, Possibilities Pvt Ltd conducted an hour long motivational session for the young professionals titled ‘unleashing the inner potential’. The ceremony was attended by ACCA Members, employers and media representatives.

Friday, February 17, 2012


New online ‘risk healthcheck’ for businesses is launched by global accountancy body
Businesses need to work harder to spread responsibility for risk management across the whole organisation, according to a new report from ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants).

The survey of more than 2,000 ACCA members found accountants at the business coal-face have a vital role to play in successful risk management, and that they stand ready to do more.

The survey also found a statistical link between the use of accounting practices that contribute to managing risk and lower occurrences of dysfunctional behaviour. The survey also found differences in the perception of a company’s exposure to risk between those at board level and those accountants working below board level.

‘Risk happens at all levels of business,’ says Paul Moxey, head of risk management and corporate governance at ACCA. ‘It doesn’t sit in silos. Risk management needs to be something undertaken by everyone in an organisation so it is fully integrated.

‘The survey shows accountants have an excellent grasp of the risks faced by their organisation and the steps needed to manage those risks. The survey also shows clear support among accountants for ‘challenging senior people’ as being part of good business culture. Accounting is really about providing information to help make good decisions, and good decisions mean less risk. The accountant’s day-to-day role is all about managing risk, even if people don’t think about what they do in that way.

‘The results are both encouraging, in terms of what accountants do and would do more of, and frightening in terms of the extent of dysfunctional revealed. There is a big problem to be addressed. Businesses need to make sure they use the risk awareness and risk management skills of their qualified accountants, and not miss an opportunity to effectively integrate risk management.’

The value of accountants’ contributions can be lost through their misuse. Accountants in the survey reported very high levels of ‘bad behaviour’ around risk management. Examples include frequent ‘gaming’ of forecasts, providing optimistic versions to avoid criticism or pessimistic ones to reduce expectations. Only 1% of respondents reported never seeing any of the bad behaviours asked about in the survey at their organisation.

However, the survey did find a statistical link between the use of good risk management practices by accountants and incidences of dysfunctional behaviour: More good practices correspond with less dysfunctional behaviour. Types of good practice include aspects of management accounting, forecasting, reporting and quality controls, decision support and controls over wrongful behaviour. Accountants who thought dysfunctional behaviours most widespread, most wanted to make more use of the good practices.

Some of the highest scores for good practices were from small organisations. Their stereotype as unsophisticated is perhaps an oversimplification.

The survey also found those in more junior roles are more aware of both risks and ‘bad behaviour’ than their board-level colleagues.

‘Non-execs were more likely than anyone else to identify ‘personality’ factors – such as planned dishonesty or the opportunistic abuse of power – as causes of problems rather than more controllable factors, such as financial pressure on an organisation’ explains Paul Moxey. ‘They were also much more optimistic about the frequency of ‘bad behaviour’ than anyone else, and were more enthusiastic about management tools the survey shows to have debatable effectiveness, such as budgetary controls.

‘It may be because senior levels are less involved in the day-to-day running of the organisation, or because they’re taking a broader view of the business. It might be the way information is reported to them needs to be improved.’

The survey findings have been used by ACCA to develop an online ‘risk healthcheck’ for businesses. Using this resource, businesses can compare themselves to the practices and experiences of businesses from the survey, and identify areas for improvement.

Paul Moxey concludes: ‘This is a very timely report as now is a critical time for risk management. The financial crisis highlighted the disastrous consequences of senior management effectively ignoring risk management. Risk management has since risen up the agenda, but its importance hasn’t always been reflected in budgets or actual actions and there’s a danger it will be forgotten about once the current crisis has passed. Businesses need to take this opportunity to properly integrate risk management into their business processes.

‘Integrated risk management is vital for any business that wants to pursue sustainable growth. We hope businesses take advantage of the insights on offer as part of the ‘healthcheck’