Auditor could lose licence
Thursday, October 25 2012
PRESIDENT of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Trinidad and Tobago (ICATT) Derek Mohammed yesterday called for a special meeting of the ICATT council this week, triggering a process which could possibly see Chanka Seeterram, the chartered accountant for the Hindu Credit Union (HCU), face action calling for the removal of his practicing certificate.
On Tuesday, Seeterram admitted to shifting a $31 million loss in the 2005 HCU accounts from the profit and loss statement to the area of the accounts dealing with retained earnings; not telling an HCU annual general meeting of a $150 million loss; and hastily forwarding accounts at the request of former HCU president Harry Harnarine. Yesterday, Seeterram was adamant that he had not “cooked the books.”
But in an interview with Newsday yesterday, Mohammed revealed that he called for a meeting of the ICATT council to review the case, in the wake of Seeterram’s testimony at the Colman Inquiry on Tuesday afternoon. Mohammed said “due process” will now take place.
“This is understandably a matter of great public concern and the contents of the transcript have come to my attention,” Mohammed told Newsday. “At this point there has been no determination of this matter but what I will say is there is going to be due process and a committee will look at this and determine whether this is cause to take any action in relation to Mr Seeterram.” The Institute of Chartered Accountants of Trinidad and Tobago (ICATT), which was incorporated by statute in 1970, is the main local body with oversight for accountants. Accountants, however, may practice without being registered with the ICATT once they hold international qualifications, such as that of the Association of Chartered Accountants (ACCA) – a body that has independent systems of sanction. Seeterram, however, is understood to be a member of the ICATT.
“We will issue a further statement in light of the importance of this matter, given that a lot of things have happened in the past, particularly the collapse of HCU and Clico,” Mohammed said. “Within the week we will be making a statement on the matter.”
Mohammed said ICATT – which has about 1,200 members – has in recent times been trying to take steps to restore confidence in the profession. It has engaged in a programme of reviewing and tightening regulations, he said.
“We are looking at our framework; revising our rules and regulations and taking steps in terms of monitoring practice – all aimed at serving the public interest,” Mohammed said. “We have also been meeting international federations of accountants (IFFA) and adopted the IFFA code of ethics which is something all members must adhere to.”
The ICATT is made up of a council of volunteers and several committees, including an investigatory committee and a disciplinary committee. If the Seeterram case is referred to the investigatory committee by the council, it will conduct interviews and request working papers. If cause for sanction is determined, the matter will be referred to the disciplinary committee which has power to remove an accountant’s practicing certificate. Sources yesterday also said the matter is also likely to engage the attention of the ACCA Caribbean. ACCA sanctions – at the extreme – would involve an international ban from practicing.
The Institute of Chartered Accountants of Trinidad and Tobago (ICATT) was established by an Act of Parliament in 1970. Prior to ICATT’s establishment, there was the Trinidad and Tobago Association of Chartered and Certified Accountants which was a small association of professional accountants. ICATT’s membership stands at approximately 1,200 active members. Members are subject to an ethical code of integrity, objectivity, professional competence, confidentiality and professional behaviour. The ICATT Council comprises volunteer members who are elected from the general membership at the Annual General Meeting.