The international accounting industry has an urgent need to reform its internal control mechanism to restore investor confidence in the wake of the Enron collapse. Rene Ricol, who is today set to take up the presidency of the International Federation of Accountants (Ifac), said there was no doubt the 2.5 million accountants worldwide had entered a new era of accountability and transparency. 'The profession must re-engineer itself to effectively serve the public and we must work together with regulators, standard setters and others to accomplish this. We must also recommit ourselves to integrity,' he said. He said the Ifac had set up a taskforce comprising company managers, directors, investors and accounting professionals to seek ways to rebuild public confidence in financial reporting. The taskforce will submit suggestions by the middle of next year. The Ifac is an international accounting body whose members include 150 accounting organisations from around the world. Its mandate is to set ethics and standards to enhance the professionalism of the industry. Mr Ricol is in Hong Kong to host the 16th World Congress of Accountants to be attended by more than 5,000 accountants and senior officials, including Premier Zhu Rongji. The event, which kicks off today and ends on Thursday, is held every five years and is being hosted by Hong Kong for the first time. It is widely believed the event will focus on how to restore public confidence in the accounting industry. Enron's collapse has highlighted a number of accounting problems, namely that its auditor, Arthur Andersen, failed to point out the firms' serious debt problems. There was also the conflict of interest which arose from Andersen also providing consulting services to Enron. These issues were just two that contributed to Andersen's demise. In the United States, the Enron-Andersen debacle prompted the government to set up an oversight board to watch over the industry and a firm's lead auditor must now be rotated every five years. Washington has also required accounting firms to separate their consulting business from their audit work. While supporting these reforms, Mr Ricol said the measures would only result in limited improvement in the industry's professionalism. 'To solve the problem, [the aim should be to] improve the integrity of individual accountants and the internal controls among accounting firms.' 'Integrity is the key word identifying our profession. We need to put in place safeguards to guarantee to all those who have put trust in us that the work we deliver will be done with integrity,' he said.