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ICAI to limit multiple entities by audit firms
October, 05th 2009

Proposal awaits approval, to apply prospectively.

The Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI) is likely to restrict to two the number of entities an audit firm can register. The move follows denials by PricewaterHouse of any connection with the tainted entity that conducted the audit on Satyam Computers, whose promoter confessed to fraud in January this year.

The proposal to restrict multiple registrations by audit firms, made by ICAIs committee that looked into the Satyam fiasco, is expected to be approved by ICAIs apex governing council soon.

Sometimes you find four or five firms registered in identical or almost similar names Pricewater House and Pricewater House & Co for instance in various parts of the country. We have taken a decision in the committee not to permit the registration of more than two such firms that are promoted by the same entity, ICAI President Uttam Prakash Agarwal told Business Standard.

There are three Price Waterhouse firms and four Price Waterhouse & Co firms in PriceWaterhousCoopers network of firms in India. Each firm is a separate partnership firm, with a maximum of 20 partners each, with head offices in the cities in which they are registered. Each of these is registered with ICAI. The Pricewater House registered in Bangalore had audited Satyam.

The institutes decision, however, will not have any impact on existing arrangements since the decision will be effective prospectively. We cannot undo the past. But for the future, we are not going to allow such registrations, Agarwal said.

PricewaterHouse said that its Kolkata and Delhi firms had nothing to do with the Satyam audit. Nor have they received till date any notice from ICAI alleging misconduct, the auditing firm said in a e-mail response to a query.

ICAI has also decided to prevent all audit firms, whose partners are under scrutiny for unethical practices, from taking up government audits. The move has come at a time the government is planning to make such a ban legal by introducing an enabling clause in the new Companies Bill.

Although the enactment of the law will take time, ICAIs decision can have an immediate effect through an existing referral mechanism under which the Controller and Audit General (CAG) and Reserve Bank of India (RBI) check with ICAI before awarding auditing assignments.

All audit work is given by CAG or RBI and they generally ask ICAI if any disciplinary cases are going against them or not. Since the letter comes to us, we have taken a decision to write to them, saying these firms should not be given the opportunity, Agarwal explained.

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