Accounting body wants investigative powers to enforce compliance

(From left): MIA president Salihin Abang, Accountant General of Malaysia Datuk Saat Esa, Deputy Finance Minister Datuk Amiruddin Hamzah, MIA CEO Dr Nurmazilah Mahzan and MIA Registrar Sudirman Masduki at the MIA International Accountants Conference 2018. Photos by Mohd Suhaimi Mohamed Yusuf

(From left): Nurmazilah, Salihin, Malaysian Book of Records COO Christopher Wong, Amiruddin, MIA ED strategy & development G. Shanmugam, MIA Conference Unit Team Lead Noor Azlina Abu Bakar, Saat and Sudirman.

(From left): Salihin, Amiruddin and ACCA chief executive Helen Brand at the conference.

Amiruddin said accrual accounting will foster better financial planning to ensure that the government is able to meet its liabilities as they fall due and the requirement to identify, measure and report government liabilities will result in transparency and foster better financial planning.

Nurmazilah said the move away from the quarterly reporting framework is something that has been happening globally.

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KUALA LUMPUR (Oct 9): The Malaysian Institute of Accountants (MIA) is in talks with the Ministry of Finance (MoF) to amend the Accountants Act 1967, which empowers the accounting body as the regulator and developer of the accountancy profession.

"We have asked for stronger sanctions and investigative powers in order to better enforce regulations and good governance in a more complex business environment," MIA president Salihin Abang said in his keynote address at the MIA International Accountants Conference 2018 today.

"In 2018, we have already disposed of our backlog of cases and taken stern action against bogus accountants, and our consistent and just enforcement, backed by balanced education for members and all those offering accounting services in Malaysia will continue in the future," he said.

Earlier at the opening, Deputy Finance Minister Datuk Amiruddin Hamzah commended MIA for strengthening its enforcement to enhance regulation, despite existing restrictions such as inadequate sanctions and investigative powers.

"We welcome the proactive enforcement actions against bogus accountants, prompt disposal of backlogged cases and judicious investigation of 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) by MIA, among other enforcement initiatives that create confidence in the profession and the market.

"Furthermore, the government believes that more can be done to strengthen MIA's powers and we are looking into enhancing and refining the Accountants Act to further empower regulation and enforcement of the profession.

"As MIA is a statutory body under the MoF, we look forward to facilitating this legislative transition in order to improve the relevance, governance and global reputation of MIA and our Malaysian accountancy profession," he added.

Later at a press conference, Amiruddin explained that strengthening the enforcement of MIA is to ensure that a right framework is in place so that stern action is taken against accountants who behave in an unethical and unprofessional manner.

"We need to ensure that punitive actions are taken, so that people will think twice before doing something which is not right. For example, imposing a fine of RM500 may not be enough to deter someone from [behaving unethically], so we need something that is more punitive to make people think that it [is] not worth it to [break the rules]," he said.

Amiruddin also shared in his speech that the Accountant General's Department in the MoF is undergoing the transformation to implement accrual accounting from modified cash base accounting, and that the integrated Government Financial and Management Accounting System has been in place since Jan 1, 2018 in all ministries and agencies.

"The system has the facility to produce dual ledger reporting both in modified cash and accrual based. Assets and liabilities information in accrual based will subsequently allow ministries and agencies to be financially accountable for their respective revenues and expenditure.

"This will add depth to the accountability and transparency of the management of the public sector resources," he said.

He added that accrual accounting will foster better financial planning to ensure that the government is able to meet its liabilities as they fall due and the requirement to identify, measure and report government liabilities will result in transparency and foster better financial planning.

Last month, Bursa Malaysia released a consultation paper to seek public feedback on the suitability of the existing quarterly reporting framework in Malaysia, in view of the global debate and diverse views on the interim financial reporting regime.

MIA chief executive officer Dr Nurmazilah Mahzan said the move away from the quarterly reporting framework is something that has been happening globally.

"In the past investors were probably looking at short-term results, but now investors are really looking at long-term growth. So this is where the type of reporting must fit and be relevant to the needs and demands of investors.

"Globally in Australia and even in the UK they are now moving away from quarterly reporting because investors are now looking at value, and there is where you have integrated reporting, and the code of Corporate Governance has also included proposals for integrated reporting," she said.

"So now investors are looking for long-term growth and value, and moving away from looking at short-term quarterly reporting," she added.

Themed "Riding the Digital Wave, Leading Transformation", this year's MIA conference saw a participation of 3,100 delegates, and was certified by the Malaysia Book of Records as the largest gathering of accountants in a single event.