An Open Letter to President ICAI – Now is the time to support members against Covid Crisis
The Institute of Chartered Accountants India
Reference: A request to take up the active role in support of Members in distress from Covid-19.
The novel strain of coronavirus, COVID-19, has created a watershed moment in fraternity and profession. As the pandemic forces continued by way of second wave having lockdowns and we are facing the deep crisis management in executing the compliances and also facing the financial hardship. Further, it’s no secret that the pandemic has resulted in deaths and unfortunately; hundreds of the members of our Institute have become victim of the Covid-19. You are heading a 40 Member council, looking after the affairs of the Institute. We the members are the part and parcel of alma mater and our members require all kind of support at your end. We are on the war front and we have to raise our resources and honest concerns towards our members.
Our Alma Mater has also acted to the national tune and contributed Rs 11.00 Crore to the PM Cares in 2020. ICAI also requested her members to contribute for the nation cause and we have voluntarily contributed Rs 10.00 Crore through ICAI and also directly to PM Cares. ICAI has made a appreciable figure of 21.00 Crores to PM Cares. We are not supposed to make such contribution but we have accommodated and decided for the welfare of fellow citizens of our nation.
Now in 2021, a same spirit is needed to stand affirm in support of our members as the figures surfacing on the social media are scary. At present we are facing, the unexpected Covid crisis. This significant threat will have negative consequences if it’s not handled properly. In most cases, crises are there for Members life or health and financial loss of Members. The crisis can be mitigating with alertness at the institute level. First of all, there is an urgent need to monitor the responsibilities of a Chartered accountant in doing the compliances of various tax and other returns. The compliance dates are being decided without considering the ground realities and the institute should not be left any stone unturned by approaching the Government for extensions or by filing the legal cases for an extension. So far such acts were being done by members on a voluntary basis but a time has come, when the institute should put its foot in common members’ shoes. The job will be much easier if the institute does such kinds of requests or actions to provide relief to the members. Crisis management is required to handle properly or in a timely manner, otherwise, read the writing on the wall that we are going to lose a significant number of members.
Sir, the present going on 2nd wave is quite harsh and as per unofficial communication, hundreds of Chartered Accountants have already lost their battle with the Covid 19 and many are struggling hard to pass through this difficult time. There is a reported severity of deaths in the profession barring any age bracket. The impact is deep and it has certainly shattered the dreams of the members and their family members. The reason for such a high number of deaths may be because of forced scheduled tax compliance and bank audit assignments. The institute has grossly failed in taking up the grievances of the members with the authorities and also failed to communicate its concern with the members at large. The impact is not a short-term impact but will impact for many years to come.
Being Head of our institution, you cannot be a mute spectator of a never-before crisis. There is definitely anxiety with the members for the uncertainty about how the profession will look like in the next five years. There is a significant responsibility on your shoulders for managing the morale of the members and students to reduce anxiety among them by taking decisive decisions which can motivate the members.
As a common member of the institute, I put forward my suggestions to deal with such a deadly virus.
Establishment of Carona Crisis Command Centre (CCCC) at Delhi
In order to handle the coronavirus crisis properly, we need to have a clear plan and strategy around it. Here are a few pieces of advice for drafting an efficient plan.
- Create a Command Centre at Delhi to receive the information about the member’s death from the branches or individuals and also to receive the calls from members in distress. Appoint a designated crisis management team at the command. Now is the time to form one!
- It is very important to appoint the right people who will be responsible for managing the situation during coronavirus.
- Create a coronavirus crisis management plan. Ensure that the plan is flexible.
- The team should analyse and verify the information about deaths and members in distress.
- In case of death of any member, a letter of condolence signed by the President should be sent at the address of the deceased member along with a request to file claim forms from the benevolent fund.
- Recruit and involve member’s volunteers and employees in managing and reviewing the distress calls. These people, before everything else, need to understand the seriousness of the situation and they need to be good communicators in order to keep the morale of the members high.
- Frequently evaluate your plan to find out ahead of time whether the plan has gaps or issues that need to be fixed.
- Share the plan with all the members and explain the creation of the command centre.
- Sharing is caring! Share the practices and policies taken up by the institute to improve fraternity response efforts.
Need to review the benevolent fund operations.
Last year, we have introduced medical assistance to our members for Covid- treatment. It’s a matter of great relief that you have amended a few of the provisions which have made it more meaningful otherwise in 2020, the settlement of claims was not in a good spirit. Hopefully, necessary changes will help the members to receive support against Covid -19. Still, there is a scope to amend the new provisions retrospectively so that the claims which were rejected in 2020 on such conditions may be benefitted from the new relaxations. We are thankful that the Managing Committee of the benevolent fund has sanctioned/released a substantial amount to 194 Members for Treatment of CORONA Disease for the first wave of Covid-19. As a common member, I suggest you review the total mechanism and request you to make extraordinary decisions in favour of members.
- The procedure of getting the aid is too long and harsh. The recommendation of the CCM, Regional Council member of the branch committees is like begging. The worst part is that it is needed to get forwarding from them on year to year basis.
- A column for nomination should be added in the payment of the membership fee. This will be helpful to settle the claim otherwise there is a long procedure to go through it, which forfeits the whole purpose of extending the support.
- The provision of one time grant ex-gratia financial assistance of Rs. 1,50,000/-from Chartered Accountants ‘Benevolent Fund for the sustenance of an after members death is an insult to the life of a deceased member. The words like REQUEST or SUSTENANCE should be kept out of the claim form. Kindly revise the one time assistance manifold.
- Death is the Death. The condition of eligibility to get one-time ex-gratia restricted to Un-natural death (death due to reason other than ailment) of Member below the age of 55 years. Kindly review the condition and relax it. For this condition, the deaths from Covid-19 will not be eligible. This is a criminal tribute to the soul of the deceased member.
- Another harsh condition for one time ex –gratia is that the monthly income of the family of the deceased member should not more than Rs. 25,000/-p.m. or 3, 00,000/- PA. Kindly review the condition and scrapped the condition. This ex-gratia should not be treated as help rather should be taken as paying tribute to the departed soul.
- The financial assistance is being given by you for one year only. However the same is being extended to a total of five to ten years from the date of death. This financial assistance should be linked to the age of the deceased members are in transparent member The financial assistance for such a short time is no help at all. The present one-year assistance of Rs 15000/- PM is something which requires immediate attention and modification. Kindly revise.
- We can’t be too slow, too complacent, too late, too chaotic and not transparent in dealing the welfare funds like the benevolent fund. There should be updates of each and every decision at the portal. Even the balance sheet for the year ending 31st March 2020 is not uploaded. There should be a display of list of beneficiaries on year to year basis.
- At present, a Grant of financial assistance for treatment is considered only in the case of diseases or ailments like Cancer, Heart, respiratory, fracture, Kidneys and dialysis. There is a need to add few more diseases like mental disorder etc. We are talking about the physical toll on our health but hardly anyone is talking about the other elephant in the room: our mental health.
- There is an alarming negative trend in the disbursement of grant to the member families though you have increased monthly assistance of Rs 4500/- to Rs 15000/- in the past. The following figures are worrisome and give an indication that things are not moving in as a welfare measure rather the things are being dealt with insignificantly.
||No. Of Beneficiaries
||Total Amount of Disbursement.
- The Balance Sheets of the benevolent funds clearly shows that the fund is generating the surplus from the many years. Over the years, it has accumulated amounts without any aid from the Institute. You are having a good corpus of money already with you so this is the time to rise for the members suffering and needs support for this volatile period.
- The funds’ financial figures are quite impressive with a sorrowful note that the money received by the fund have not been utilised wholeheartedly. The analysis of the figures is as follows. Figures in Crores
||Financial Aid Granted
- The figures clearly show that the fund has failed to serve the members. The fund itself is generating the surplus. Why is there no contribution of ICAI for this fund? When ICAI can contribute Rs 11.00 Crore to the PM Cares, then with the same logic, the contribution to this welfare fund is totally justified. The Institute generates a 20% + surplus from its receipts and having a corpus of thousands of Crore. This thousands of Crores money ultimately belongs to 3.00 Lacks members and if there is a will power then, no one can stop you to take a decision in favour of members. When ICAI is worried about 135 Crores and rise above to contribute Rs 11.00 Crore then why not rise for the members, there should be a contribution to the benevolent fund from ICAI to the tune of Rs 5 Crore per anum. As 2020 ending Balance sheet ICAI Free Reserves stood at Rs. 1363 Crore and membership fee collected was Rs. 112 Crore in one year. Why aren’t you acting?
- The purpose of strengthening this benevolent fund is that there should be a pension-like scheme for the members and their families. The volume of the support should be a respectable one rather than at present like begging situations. There should to a system of predated cheques or auto-transfer of funds through RTGS on a month to month basis. At present, the claims are being held up and a one /two-year delay in providing the support, shamefully it is very common.
- The recommendation of branches, Regional Members, Central Council Members, the President, the vice president or member of the CABF committee should be scrapped and should be diligently handled by the core team of CABF, If at all, you require some recommendation, every member of the CABF must authorise to recommend the claim in favour of the family of the deceased member and should be only once. The recommendation on year to year basis and that too for the petty account is simply shameful. This recommendation set aside a relationship of a member with the Alma Mater.
- To emerge stronger from the COVID-19 crisis, we and our leaders must understand that we are in an extraordinarily difficult time and extraordinary things need extraordinary decisions from the leadership of ICAI. Leadership needs to rise to the occasion else what is a leadership…
- It’s easy for ICAI leadership to find excuses but a true & extraordinary leader will see how some way can be made. A time is there to find a way how money shouldn’t be spent on any conference/congress etc. and that money should find a way for the welfare of such members/their families. There is a demand for a waiver of the Annual fee from many quarters. If you are going to collect the fee, kindly divert the collected fee for supporting the families in all possible way.
- Why ICAI can’t be an organisational leader and implement extraordinary support at this extraordinary time. The life, death and consequential stress of our members are of immense importance. We have contributed to this fund for this very purpose; the amount lying in the shape of FDR has no meaning in such a difficult time. Why a most esteemed organization of 300000 educated members can’t make the decision? The world should follow our traits. I know saying this is very simple but when we all collectively decide no one can let us down. We have to act like a Bhama Shah this time.
- The pandemic is, without doubt, an acid test for leaders, presenting a challenge of the type that the vast majority will never have dealt with before and those who are appearing to score high on narcissism and low on empathy about the members and students are bound to fail dismally. One can opine that the present crisis is an acid test for ICAI and there is the need for competence, intelligence, integrity and empathy at the level of the institute to deal with such very different and very troubled times and can only hope this proves to be the case. Declare Covid Care policies
- Now, with this 2nd wave, things have gotten worse. We are all living in a perpetual state of doom and despair anxiously wondering – if we will survive this pandemic at all? Will our family and I be ok? If the situation gets worse, will we get to the hospital in time, will we get a bed, will we be saved? The current situation is too abnormal and too uncertain. How should we forecast our revenues? When will this be over, and when will we return to ‘normal?
- The world is not going back to its old time. The economic depression will be there once this turmoil of Covid-19 will be over. During the currency of this turmoil, the situation will be more painful and the same is unpredicted. This is a time to take a decision of transferring the few contents of special permission to the general permission under regulation 190 of the Act and also opening new professional opportunities added to general permission. Kindly discuss the option of granting general permission to practising members you have to keep in mind the financial survival of your members at least for the next five years.
- COVID-19 has accelerated the adoption of fully digitized approaches to re-create the best of in-person learning through virtual meetings, live video and social sharing. The Institute should ban the physical meetings, seminars and conferences for the next two years. It’s hard to believe that you have attended two physical conferences in the month of March at Ghaziabad and Agra. The said meetings were not as per Covid behaviour. The intention of such meets was political as organised by a council member willing to go for another run. We are having elections this very year, this also requires all attention and mature decisions. I request you to put a blanket ban on such physical meets. Further, review the International Conference of Accountants in the year 2022. The council has already allotted the countries to the council members to visit and promote the international conference. Kindly take a decision on holding such conference as the world representatives will not like to visit our country for a few years from now. We are having a 60 Crores budget for such conference and already starting providing for it. At this juncture, it seems a waste of resource. Kindly take a wise decision.
I request you to take up the above suggestions in good spirit. The small step will hugely help in easing the stress and burden of the members of a prestigious profession. The response from ICAI must put this as their first consideration. The world will be a very different place when this is all over. Until we stay safe and stay well and in turn contribute to society and the economy.
Thanking you in anticipation.
CA Amresh Vashisht
Membership No. 072739