A Finance Ministry official announced yesterday that after 2014 only Cambodian accountants and auditors would be allowed to certify financial statements here, prompting concern from accounting professionals and economists alike.
Speaking at the National Accounting Conference in Phnom Penh, Secretary of State Ngy Tayi, who also serves as the chairman of the National Accounting Council, acknowledged the challenges of shutting out foreign accountants, chiefly the need to rapidly train Cambodians, very few of who have qualifications in keeping with international norms.
“We have huge number of university students graduated but their quality is limited,” said Mr Tayi during his opening speech.
According to Education Ministry data distributed yesterday, 18,215 students were enrolled in accounting programs at institutions of higher education during the last academic year, a number which shows the steady rise of interest in accounting from the 2006-to-2007 academic year when 8,163 students were enrolled.
According to the Asian Development Bank, only 41 Cambodians are Certified Public Accountants, a US licensing certification commonly used around the world, and Finance Ministry data show that only 46 Cambodians are qualified by the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants and that 76 people possess the ACCA’s lesser Certified Accounting Technician degrees.
Both government and private sector representatives said yesterday that the lack of internationally certified accountants may be frightening away potential foreign investors who desire greater transparency and that it could complicate the listing of companies on the stock exchange that is supposed to open in Phnom Penh next year.
“There are three problems with becoming an accountant, lack of basic education, like mathematics and problems solving, lack of professional experience and lack of language skills,” said Try Chanthy, who is head of internal auditing at the Foreign Trade Bank and received some training in Vietnam.
ADB Country Director Putu Kamayana said at yesterday’s event that an ADB scholarship program meant to help civil servants acquire CPA licenses had to be opened to the public due to a high drop out rate and poor performance.
But according Key Kak, chairman of the accountancy Morison, Kak & Associes and former president of the Kampuchea Institute of Certified Public Accountants, and Auditors, the lack of accounting professionals in Cambodia is not the only problem with the 2014 deadline–the plan itself is flawed.
“If the current plan is completed, it is questionable whether Cambodia’s membership in IFAC would be valid,” Mr Kak said, adding that by not adopting the International Standards on Auditing from the International Federation of Accountants and locking out other accountants, Cambodia could potentially keep itself from being classified by the IFAC as a fully compliant country.