Programme to Raise Capabilities of Singapore's Small and Medium-Sized Accounting Firms

The Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Singapore (ICPAS) has launched a Quality Assurance Review (QAR) programme to promote audit quality among public accountants, in particular, the small and medium-sized accounting firms.


The QAR programme is part of the overall quality assurance framework developed by the Institute to enhance the efficiency and raise the quality of audit work by our small and medium-sized accounting firms.


Through this framework, which adopts a holistic and structured approach, the Institute will support the accounting firms by reviewing their audit processes and providing technical advice, training, counselling as well as recognition and sharing of best practices.


Raising the quality of their audit work and its beneficial impact on the financial reporting of companies will reinforce Singapore’s position as a reputable and trusted business and financial centre, says ICPAS.


"Our small and medium-sized accounting firms mainly serve our small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), which constitute the bulk of all enterprises in Singapore," says the national accountancy body. "By supporting their SME clients, our small and medium-sized accounting firms have a crucial role to play in contributing to the health of the economy."


To promote this larger public interest, the Institute is working with stakeholders such as the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA) to provide these accounting firms with the resources and assistance to deliver relevant and high-quality professional services.


According to ICPAS, these small and medium-sized accounting firms typically lack in-house technical resources, unlike their larger counterparts such as the Big Four.


The quality assurance framework established by the Institute, including the quality assurance review programme, is aimed at helping to bridge this gap.


“The ICPAS QAR programme is in line with the Government’s recommendation for small and medium-sized accounting firms to strengthen their  capabilities and raise the quality of the services they provide," says Lim Ai Leen, Executive Director, Technical Knowledge Centre and Quality Assurance. "The firms will benefit from an independent assessment of their work and can tap on the expertise of seasoned public accountants through our advisory panel.”


Julia Tay, Assistant Chief Executive (Accountancy), Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority, adds that ICPAS’ QAR programme is a worthy initiative to help public accountants boost audit quality, which underpins public confidence in the whole profession.


Tay says the programme will complement ACRA’s continuing efforts to provide a secure and trusted business environment in Singapore. 


Under the voluntary programme, a quality assurance team from ICPAS will review the participating public accountant’s audit procedures for compliance with the Singapore Standards on Auditing.


Upon completion of the review, a report which includes the findings and recommendations will be furnished to the accountant. The overall review, which is advisory in nature, takes two to three weeks, depending on the size and complexity of the engagement.


The review team is supported by a Senior QA Advisory Panel which will provide an independent assessment of the review. The panel comprises more than 10 members who are public accountants with an average of more than 20 years of public acounting experience and diverse professional backgrounds and expertise. 


The focus of this programme is to help participating public accountants improve their audit practices by identifying opportunities for improvement in audit procedures and documentation. It also provides learning opportunities for the firm’s staff through the sharing of findings and proposed action plans, thus uplifting the skills and capability of the firm. Having an external quality assessment helps to ensure consistent quality in the firm’s audit work.


Since the programme’s soft launch in October, more than 30 accounting firms have expressed interest in participation. Based on the positive feedback from the first two reviews, the Institute has now fine-tuned and will roll out the full programme in earnest.


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