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Tough sums for accountants

THE Kingdom plans by 2014 to allow only Cambodian accountants and auditors to approve final company financial statements, but industry insiders yesterday said that the timeline might not be realistic.

Speaking at National Accounting Conference at Phnom Penh’s Hotel le Royal yesterday, Ministry of Economy and Finance secretary of state Ngy Tayi said that the 2014 goal was “our challenge, especially when the securities and exchange markets begin operation in mid-2011”.

However, with only 37 Cambodian accountants fully accredited by the Association of Charted Certified Accountants and 46 having completed the required examinations, experts questioned that supply could meet demand by the chosen date.

“I have my concerns whether it’s achievable,” said one accounting professional, who requested anonymity.

“The time frame of five years [from the announcement of the goal] is overly optimistic.”

World Bank senior financial management specialist Christopher Robert Fabling said in a speech that a significant amount of work was required to meet the government’s deadline.

“2014 is not that far away,” he said.

ACCA country head Dalis Chhorn would not comment directly on whether 2014 was an achievable goal yesterday, but said it commonly takes five to six years for a Cambodian to receive full ACCA accreditation.

Besides three years’ work experience and completion of an ethics module, she said candidates must take 14 separate examinations – some of which were passed by as few as 5 percent of candidates.

Some 18,215 Cambodians were enrolled in accounting programmes alone for the 2009-10 school year – over 11 percent of the entire Cambodian population attending institutes of higher education, according to statistics provided by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport.

But Ministry’s Department of Higher Education deputy director general Mak Ngoy said there was a mismatch between the courses provided and job and knowledge requirements at yesterday’s conference.

“We are still far short of accountants,” he said, adding that by comparison that 2.56 percent of students studied science, and 4 percent agriculture.

Ngy Tayi said many students graduated in accounting but ended up working in other professions.

Targeting 100 fully accredited Cambodian accountants in 2013, he said auditors were crucial to the Kingdom’s revenue-collection efforts.

“Please verify all the numbers so the tax collectors can get the [correct] money,” he asked auditors.

Minister of Economy and Finance Keat Chhon said auditors should posses a strong family tradition in the profession.

“When they recruit tax collectors, they ask for a family name – it should be the same for accountants,” he said.

The minister said the remark was inspired by discussion of methods to attract members of so-called "Generation Y" to become accountants.

“I listened to Generation Y, and it made me think of genes,” he said.

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