No accounting for this lack of direction

| Edward Chow 17 May 2019

Mother's Day has come and gone, an event celebrated by nearly all at the giving end in terms of bouquets, gifts, meals, kisses, etc, and by moms at the receiving end. And that's often two generations, sometimes three, in these days of longevity.

For me, it is often a day of solitude, as I have been without a mom for 42 years, when in 1977 a cancer relapse took her away at the young age of 55.

I was still receiving my accountancy training in London when the phone rang in the middle of the night to summon my return, being the only son, to take charge of her funeral.

When I eventually qualified as a chartered accountant against a UK national pass rate of 19.2 percent the joy and relief did not equate with not being able to be with mom in her last days, as she insisted on not telling me about her terminal illness so I could concentrate on my final professional exams.

I made a pledge to spend at least one third of my time on voluntary work in the profession in memory of her.

That saw me serve on the Hong Kong Institute of Certified Public Accountants' council for 12 years, chair its corporate governance committee for 11 years, and act as its president in 2005.

During this time it signed mutual recognition agreements with seven leading international accounting bodies and bought two floors at Wu Chung House at 2005 prices to be its head office and training center, hence hedging against future rental increases forever.

On July 1, 2007, after an eight-year overhaul, the institute, as a standard bearer, got financial reporting standards to fully converge with International Financial Reporting Standards.

In 2004, to better serve the public via increased oversight, its governance structure was upgraded to include appointment of four lay and two ex-officio members.

This governance structure, in form, is still considered forward thinking among professional bodies in Hong Kong.

However, due to an increasingly political stance taken by members on professional matters on the one hand and the growth and mergers of the bigger accounting firms on the other, the quality of professional wellbeing of the council and some of its members are perceived by many as impaired despite the enhanced governance structure!

It is a matter of public record that calls have been made at EGMs to ask for the replacement of the chief executive and registrar with pay cuts, for surpluses to be returned to members, and for the president to be elected on a one member, one vote basis.

It is also a matter of fact that, one year after a decision to search for a new chief executive and registrar, a replacement has not been chosen by council.

Meanwhile, rumors and hearsay have been circulating about a split search committee, council not having a choice of candidates, council disapproving "hard sell "

The latest rumor circulating around is that a slate of candidates will be presented to the council for interviews and decisions next week. Let's hope objectivity prevails in selecting the best candidate, any conflict of interest is declared, and the ex-official and lay council members cast votes in the best public interest! HKICPA is ultimately a statutory body established by law to serve the public interest!

is a current affairs commentator and a past president of HKICPA. Views expressed in this article are his own

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