Steering towards safety: Chartered Accountants Worldwide members make an impact in global COVID-19 response
As Governments across the world implemented a range of measures to slow the spread of COVID-19, Chartered Accountants Worldwide members were there to provide support and resources.
Their work involved:
- Direct contact at the highest levels with Governments to make recommendations and influence policy from a financial and business perspective.
- Seeking and providing clarity on business support initiatives designed to counter the impact of COVID-19.
- Reaching significant audiences of members, practice firms and other stakeholders through webinars, online guides, and social media to guide them through new legislation and business support.
Chartered Accountants Worldwide wanted to discover how its member institutes in Australia and New Zealand, Bangladesh, England, Scotland and Wales, Indonesia, Ireland, Pakistan, Singapore, South Africa, Sri Lanka and India had been working with their Governments to help them strategically plan their recovery. We published the findings on Charteredaccountantsworldwide.com.
In that article, we also highlighted how Governments are now experiencing higher levels of trust, as measured by the Edelman Trust Barometer. By taking swift action to support and engage with Governments, Chartered Accountants member institutes are helping to build and reinforce that trust, by showing leadership and influence, while highlighting their value to members and to the wider community.
In this article, we focus on the impact CAW member institutes made across their economies, the businesses in their countries, and their members.
Australia and New Zealand: CA ANZ
In Australia, CA ANZ’s COVID-19-related advocacy achieved a media reach of 4.4 million by the first week of May. And across Australia and New Zealand, their COVID Sharing Knowledge sessions for members achieved 30,000 registrations by the end of May.
CA ANZ advocated with the Federal Government for recognition of accounting as an ‘essential service’, and was part of a group of accountants and financial planners that successfully applied to Australia’s Securities and Investments Commission for regulatory relief. This resulted in more Australians getting the help they needed to understand the Federal Government’s COVID-19 economic packages, including early access to their superannuation.
The Bangladesh Government considered several recommendations from ICAB. This included supporting business and the economic recovery in the national budget and fiscal policy whilst another focused directly and indirectly on widening the tax net for revenue generation with an aim to achieve a higher tax GDP ratio. ICAB also proposed allocating sufficient budget to create a social safety net for low-income groups.
As part of serving society at large with useful information and guidance, ICAB arranged several seminars, press conferences and discussions with members and relevant stakeholders including key regulators and Government.
Ireland: Chartered Accountants Ireland
A key initiative of Chartered Accountants Ireland was the development and publication of “The Next Financial Year: Making Irish Business More Competitive.” This multi-disciplinary position paper considered how the Government in ROI and NI can simplify processes and remove red tape to support business recovery and expansion.
Many measures proposed by the policy have been adopted by both the Irish and UK Governments. Subsequently, Government Ministers and HMRC have acknowledged the important contributions Chartered Accountants Ireland have played during this COVID-19 pandemic.
In Indonesia, Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) are among the hardest hit by the COVID-19 crisis, with 47% expected to experience significant disruption. Under the ‘IAI for Society’ banner, IAI actively equipped practising Chartered Accountants in accounting services firms with the latest know-how, focusing on building resilience and how to overcome uncertainties connected to the pandemic.
IAI also highlighted the role of Chartered Accountants as trusted advisors, especially those in the public sector, given their important role in overseeing the refocusing and realising of the state’s budget into COVID-19 initiatives.
Pakistan: Institute of Chartered Accountants Pakistan
ICAP held webinars to create awareness, give insights and educate participants on current issues including organisational resilience, business transformation, and the impact of COVID-19. These were extremely well received, reaching audiences of over 95,000.
To support members during the pandemic, ICAP made all of its study texts available online free of charge and arranged courier delivery of books to more than 3,000 students.
ISCA published technical guidance on audit and financial reporting issues arising from the pandemic. They held a series of advisory sessions for accounting practices to help them ensure business continuity safely during COVID-19. Together with Government agency, ISCA also co-organised a Virtual Career’s Fair for Accounting and Finance Professionals, which attracted more than 11,000 visitors in two weeks.
With the pace of digital transformation accelerating amid the pandemic, ISCA launched the SMP Programme with the support of Enterprise Singapore, a Government agency. This initiative aims to drive digitalisation, upskilling and internationalisation of Singapore’s SMPs.
South Africa: SAICA
Since South Africa’s lockdown took effect on 27 March, SAICA made 11 submissions on issues ranging from tax policy and compliance to relief bills and the national budget, at the request from regulators and standards setters. It also presented to the national parliament on the supplementary budget and held webinars to explain the Unemployment Insurance Fund process to its members.
SAICA served on the Ministerial Paying Tax Workgroup and the Labour Workgroup. Other advocacy efforts included submissions to Business for South Africa (B4SA) for relief negotiations and Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) labour relief, drafts of two tax disaster relief bills, regulations on “essential and permitted services”, and on the UIF Temporary Employee/Employer Relief Scheme (TERS) benefit regulations.
Sri Lanka: CA Sri Lanka
CA Sri Lanka took several initiatives to enhance the skill sets of its 6000 members. It contacted local chambers and the Government, offering support and services to restructure and resuscitate the economy.
It was also involved in the launch of a task force to identify economic segments where its members could offer help, including the SME sector, which accounts for over a million entities contributing over 50% of national GDP.
Seeking to support its Government through these troublesome times, the ICAI has played a crucial role in creating awareness and implementing relief packages. Using its 1 million strong student and member community, the ICAI rallied financial donations to the Relief in Emergency Situations fund, in addition to continuing its influential participation in India’s efforts to create Atmanirbhar Bharat (a Self-Reliant India).
To keep its members up to date and maintain a minimalistic impact to small and medium practitioners, ICAI offered free support to the professional community. Using initiatives such as the DLH (Digital Learning Hub), they were able to grant free access to structured CPE hours, provide various webinars and virtual certificate courses.
UK: ICAEW (England and Wales)
ICAEW’s collaboration with the UK Government focused on fine-tuning the Government’s COVID initiatives for businesses and looking at how companies can reopen from lockdown while protecting the safety of staff at work and adapting physical workplaces for social distancing.
As well as working with the Government, ICAEW continued to engage with Opposition front bench spokespersons and key stakeholders on UK Parliamentary Committees.
Both UK and Scottish Governments had welcomed, listened and responded to a number of the matters that ICAS raised, particularly in relation to the fine-tuning of the job retention and income support schemes.
To help the Scottish Government to strategically plan its approach to the recovery, ICAS actively encouraged Chartered Accountants in key organisations across all sectors to ensure that their organisations responded to the proposed plan. ICAS also submitted its own response focusing on funding, accountability and scrutiny, sustainability and taxation.
Across the globe, amid ongoing economic uncertainty from COVID-19, Chartered Accountants emerged as business leaders, decision makers and trusted advisors to help meet the many challenges ahead. In the process, they’re helping brands and public services to build trust. Check back regularly at charteredaccountantsworldwide.com to discover more in future articles.