CA Rajni Shah
Come December month and the threat of completing the ‘Compulsory’ CPE hours would be spooking out most of the practicing Chartered Accountants.
CPE which stands for ‘Continuing Professional Education’ is the means by which the members of any profession harness their knowledge and skills. CPE is a structured approach to ensure that the core competencies of the members are up to date so that they can deliver what is expected from them by the society at large.
Every profession including ours mandates sound knowledge, sharp interpretation skills and practical approach towards the assignment. With the significant changes taking place in the legislations, staying current has become the need of the hour. May it be the recently passed Companies Act, 2013 or the ‘in-waiting’ Goods and Service Tax bill, each requires the members to gain a complete new understanding of the legislations.
Even the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India has recognized this importance of continuous learning, as a result of which it has introduced the requirement of ‘CPE hours’ on mandatory basis way back since 2008-09. However, respecting the Institute’s intentions, the moot question that arises is why should there be a compulsion on the professionals to acquire knowledge or education. Should one feel the necessity to succeed in his/her professional lives, he/she should suo motu try and acquire the knowledge from varied sources. On the other hand, what would be the guarantee that a person would gain, should he complete the CPE hours requirement? The question is left unanswered.
The situation that has come to light today is that most of the members are merely ‘completing’ this compulsory requirement without much enthusiasm or zeal and thereby resulting in nothing fruitful. It is the ‘attendance’ that such member gains and not the knowledge that he was supposed to acquire. It is a known fact that the attendance on paper vis-à-vis the actual presence during the sessions show no reconciliation. Those who really intend to acquire knowledge do so, irrespective of the compulsions.
Apart from what has been opined in the preceding, the system of CPE hours also faces some serious lacunae. On one hand, the registrations are way more than the capacity of the hall or the auditorium where the assemblage take place, while on the other hand, the hall is not found filled up to its capacity. There happens to be absolutely no check on the physical attendance of the members during the seminars. The proxies in such programs would remind the most of us of the college days
What must be contemplated is that it is not the number of seminars that are held, but the quality of the program and the speaker that matters the most. An eloquent speaker or a prominent faculty might do well to attract the members to attend the program. The hyper technical seminars grossly fail in generating interest among the members attending the seminar. One might not agree to this observation but this remains a bitter reality. The professionals are fast converting into ‘Knowledge workers’ thereby erasing the thin line between ‘Knowledge’ and ‘Education’. The real knowledge is normally gained at the small group meetings where the members discuss their problems which they face day in and day out. To illustrate this, members might be more interested in finding the solutions to the problems they face in e-filing of the tax audit report rather than knowing its technicalities or the lacunae. The voluntary associations like Chartered Accountants Association, Ahmedabad (CAA) and Bombay Chartered Accountants Society (BCAS) work towards providing such practical knowledge to the members. However, since such programs are not recognized for the purpose of Structured CPE credits, the importance and participation at such value-addition programs is slowly declining.
Further, an unstructured programme for acquiring the CPE credits has been implemented for members other than in practice and for senior citizens. However, merely reporting of the knowledge acquired over a year might be good in its intention but not in practice. This system has been made purposeless and ought to be redefined.
Yet, the CPE requirements can be made effective through effort and endeavor by ICAI as well the members. What is required is to systematize the whole concept. Discussion of the ‘current’ and inviting eloquent professionals would certainly comfort the cause. Strict exertion of the attendance obligation would assist to bail out the CPE requirement from being merely a matter of mockery and ridicule.
The hypocrisy is at its worst. At the fag-end of every calendar year, the Institute arranges the CPE MELA which is no better than the END OF SEASON SALE. Just a few days back, the last date for completing the requirement of the compulsory CPE hours has been extended to the end of the financial year. Such measures hit hard on those agile members who are genuinely interested in gaining knowledge.. Every year the deadline is extended which proves that even after five years of introduction of mandatory CPE, the members are not taking the same seriously and are complacent about actions which might be taken by ICAI against them. Moreover, the said actions are governed by a mere circular by the Secretary of CPE Committee and do not seem serious in nature per se. I could not lay my hand on any legal support based on which whole CPE structure is introduced, may it be a section of an Act, or a circular or a notification. The complacency in the minds of those who have not completed CPE hours is that there is no penalty for non compliance except that the names of such members will be hosted on the website and regulating authorities may not allot the professional assignments or audits to such members. It is a myth that if one does not complete CPE, the Certificate of Practice will not be renewed.
Over the years, ICAI has come up with various mandatory courses for the students like Information Technology Training I and II, Orientation Training , GMCS-1 and 2. Also, many voluntary courses for members like ISA and DIRM has been initiated by the Institute. However, the same has not received the expected zeal and momentum from the students and members as its implementation and management is ineffective and mostly because its usefulness in practical world is still not clear. The introduction of all such schemes have definitely created a healthy revenue centre for ICAI.
The Compulsory ‘Continuing Professional Education’ hours is surely turning out to be an oxymoron. Honestly, in my humble opinion one cannot attach the word ‘Compulsory’ with the process of acquisition of knowledge. It is the inner zeal and thirst for knowledge that would help the members to achieve their goals. One cannot be mandated to acquire knowledge. It is up to the members on how they pursue their professional lives. As they say, we can take the horse to the water, but not make it drink.
There is no doubt that the initiative taken by the Institute is in fact commendable. But to ensure that the same achieves the desired results, major restructuring would be required to be done and the success would not be possible without the efforts and interest of the members. With this January 2014 Issue, let us strive to work with conviction and advent towards the same cause. It is here we remember, what has always been professed:”Deeds, not Words”
Anyways, as it is customary to talk about the New Year resolutions, I only wish that all of us resolve to serve the profession and respect the fraternity. What more but – ‘Sabko Sanmati de Bhagwan’
Let’s broaden our minds to learn effectively and not just to observe the formality.