The Institute of Chartered Accountants of India, which frames accounting standards for the country, has opposed a proposal of the Reserve Bank of India to relax the provisioning norms for non-performing assets.

According to the proposal, commercial banks need not classify a non-serviced loan under NPAs if the borrower has submitted an application for restructuring the package before March 31, 2009.

“By such treatment no non-performing assets would be reflected on the balance sheet of banks till December 31, 2009,” said Uttam Prakash Agarwal, president of ICAI.

This would have implications for the auditing standards to be followed by the auditors while giving their opinion on the quality of assets shown in the banks’ balance sheets, added Agarwal.

On February 4, the RBI had sent out a circular which said that since a large number of accounts were required to be restructured, it would not be possible to take up all such accounts for restructuring by January 31, 2009. Therefore, it extended the date to March 31.

By simple receipt of restructuring package application, the RBI had said, the package would be put in place within 120 days and all such accounts treated as standard assets.

ICAI has already told the RBI, the Comptroller and Auditor General of India and finance ministry about its concern. The issue is expected to be deliberated in the Auditing and Assurance Standards Board meeting on March 24.

The Institute has also expressed its opposition to the managerial autonomy of public sector banks in appointment of auditor. It wants these appointments to be done by the RBI.

“The present system has the potential to undermine audit independence,” said Agarwal, calling for going back to the earlier system of centralised appointment of auditors.

According to Agarwal, for more than two decades, the RBI had been doing the allocation of bank audits and this procedure had been working quite satisfactorily.

Stressing the need for strengthening the mechanism to promote such independence, he said the government and the RBI should not experiment with a tried and tested method in the name of liberalisation.

The Institute has also called for giving ample time and practical deadlines to auditors for conducting bank branch statutory audit. The banks put pressure on auditors to complete the audit by April 7 or 8 every year, said Agarwal.

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