Tougher entry comes under fire

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 16 November, 2000, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 16 November, 2000, 12:00am

Proposed new joining requirements for the Hong Kong Society of Accountants (HKSA) have been branded 'unrealistic' and 'too harsh'.

Existing members expressed concern about the proposed changes during an HKSA forum yesterday.

'I have been an accountant for 30 years and I believe I would only meet with about 70 per cent of the new requirements,' said one HKSA member at the meeting. 'The new rules would be just too harsh for new graduates. Anyone who met with the new requirements within three years of working at an accounting firm would have to be a superman.'

The proposals, under consultation until November 28, are designed to improve assessment of a candidate's practical experience.

At present, to be certified, professional accountants must be HKSA members. Members are required to pass a range of examinations plus have three to five years of practical experience, depending on their qualifications. The present system only requires a potential member to work in a certified professional accounting firm or a commercial organisation's accounting department. The requirements do not specify what the applicant must learn during that time in the workforce.

'This system is inadequate in assessing whether the applicant has appropriate experience,' claims Doug Oxley, chairman of a practical experience task force which is in charge of determining the new requirements.

Under the proposed new system, the HKSA will issue guidelines about the duration and type of experience which count towards candidates' practical requirements.

The proposed rules also specify the skills candidates must develop in each of these areas.

'The new system would increase the transparency of assessing the practical experience of the candidates,' Mr Oxley said. 'It would also bring Hong Kong in line with the international standards.'

One accountant at yesterday's meeting described the changes as a 'lovely wish list'.

Implementation of the HKSA's proposals would force supervisors at accounting firms to turn a blind-eye to most candidates who did not meet the rigorous requirements.

He said that if supervisors strictly followed the proposed requirements, 'no one would be able to pass the test'.

The new rules would require candidates to draft audit reports, a task accounting firms would usually ask only an experienced auditor to perform.

Candidates want the HKSA to postpone implementing the changes from January 2002 to a later date.

'The present system is easier than the proposed one,' said one candidate. 'I think the HKSA should delay the introduction of the new system as the candidates would need more time to adjust their career plan to meet with the new requirement.'

HKSA director of education and training Georgina Chan Tan Soh-tin said the new system was not designed to make it more difficult for candidates to pass the tests.

She said the HKSA would consider members' comments and would make changes to the proposals if they were needed.