The Hong Kong Society of Accountants' (HKSA) investigation and disciplinary committees should be made up mainly of independent members, according to the government. Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury Frederick Ma Si-hang yesterday said: 'The committees are responsible for handling the malpractice of accountants. Their jobs are related to the public interest so they should be majority-formed by lay members. 'HKSA's self-regulation model is different from the international trend. There is a need for it to change its current system.' At the moment, each committee has just one lay member and two accountants. Mr Ma said he had suggested the change to HKSA members at a recent meeting and the society had promised an early response. However, he said Hong Kong should not follow the United States by setting up a government-funded independent oversight board. 'Although there are some false accounting allegations in Hong Kong, the situation is not as bad as the corporate scandals in the United States.' The collapse of Enron, WorldCom and Tyco International had shaken investors' confidence and prompted the US government to spend a huge amount of money to set up the oversight board. 'It is not worth following the US . . . At the end of the day, it is the self-discipline of accountants that will ensure the integrity of the sector,' Mr Ma said. The Independent Commission Against Corruption this week arrested 21 people, including three accounting professionals, over allegations of bribery related to the listings of three companies. The arrests follow the recent case of Euro-Asia Agricultural (Holdings), which is alleged to have inflated revenues 20 times. These allegations have prompted legislators and stockbrokers to call for tighter regulation of accountants and listing sponsors. Mr Ma agreed the allegations had shown the regulations needed to be reformed. 'The government will not tolerate false accounting practices. We will use tough measures to crack down on malpractice,' he said. 'If no punishment is added to accountants who commit malpractice, the situation will get worse.'. Meanwhile, Mr Ma yesterday repeated that it should be the Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing board, and not the government, which determined if the minimum brokerage commission should be removed as scheduled in April. Brokers have urged the government to abandon plans to scrap the minimum commission, fearing it would lead to many small players going out of business.