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ICAI strengthens its IT backbone
August, 08th 2009

The premium institute of chartered accountant, Institute of Chartered Accountant of India (ICAI), is adopting latest technologies in order to stay abreast of the international standards and foster development among its members

K. Raghu, newly appointed Chairman of Committee on Information Technology (CIT), IT unit of ICAI has introduced around 14 initiatives in a span of six months to offer services to its team of more than one and a half lakh members. Speaking to CIOL, Raghu detailed about the various initiatives adopted by the committee. Excerpts:

What are the various initiatives that you have launched for the members? What according you created the need for this initiative?

We have introduced around 14 initiatives bringing a bigger role for ICT in the organisation. We have also launched a revamp of our e-governance in association with Infosys Technologies. Apart from this we are in the process of forming an entirely separate body that would regulate the IT-related initiative.

One of the initiatives is the revamp of the community portal, with the added feature of RSS feeds to provide regular updates to community members.

It also has an embedded video, special e-learning facility on Industry security and job center for the members. The new website is compliant to mobile platforms and can be accessed over mobile phones also.

Other initiatives include some international activities like introduction of eXtensible Business Reporting Language (XBRL) and the international standards with the help of USA committee. But still the majority of these initiatives are towards providing training facilities through videos, online books and courses on our website.

We felt a need of improving the skills among the members, which was missing either because of the lack of proper training or the facilities for training. We observed that they were lacking behind in many standards from the global level, which needed to be addressed.

ICAI already has a Committee of Information Technology, what would be the role of the new body in IT?

This new body will act as a full-fledged body called Information Technology (IT) Directorate. It will bring all IT activities under CIT of ICAI. It is made in a way to function in a corporate fashion, wherein we would appoint a Chief Technology Officer (CTO) to roll out a roadmap for technology adoption and a Chief Information Officer (CIO) to supervise and ensure proper implementation of the initiatives.

This would include information about every individual member. The IT directorate will facilitate co-ordination and optimum use of the IT resources and is also responsible for conduction of online tests, result, processing, education and training.

ICAI has tied-up with Infosys Technologies to prepare a charter for your e-governance. Could you share more details on that?

We partnered with Infosys to change the entire process of e-governance at ICAI. The goal is to create a single integrated IT system for catering to the entire community of chartered accountants and students irrespective of their geographical locations. In other words, it connects the entire network of ICAI, which includes our five regional offices, 122 branches and more than one and a half lakh accountants. This project was named as Project Parivartan, which means change.

The project was flagged off on May 6, 2009. Since then we have conducted workshops in many cities like New Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai, Kanpur, Mumbai, Bangalore and Jaipur. As mentioned before Infosys would guide us in this project.

Can you elaborate more on the steps taken under training and development?

I would start by giving a very simple example. Every year, after the announcement of the union budget, we organize a special meeting of the industry specialists. This time we carried the webcast of this analyst talk on our website. More than 2000 members had accessed that video.

Similarly, we uploaded the videos of our recent events and seminars including the Agra summit. While the footfall at the event was around 1000, the number of hits at the webcast were phenomenally higher than that. This new feature will help our members and students access information from anywhere in the country.

Another significant announcement in this direction has been regarding Information Systems Audit (ISA). ISA is a mandatory practice globally, but is yet to catch-up in India. The Satyam story would not have happened, had there been ISA in the system. We have asked the Government to make it mandatory, so that all the filings are monitored even if they are filed during midnight.

In India, this course was introduced in year 2004-05, but till date the required study material were not easily accessible for the members. We have introduced the post qualification course on ISA in the website for members. Our mandate also includes organizing ISA meets to create a platform for knowledge sharing on IS Audit and Consultancy, ERP Implementation, E-Commerce Implementation and many more.

Service tax course and IFRS have also been introduced in the site. With a minimal fee of Rs 500 the member can now accrue the certification by filing for online service-tax course.

Members can register online and get access to an e-learning kit consisting of a book on Service Tax, video presentation by the author and a Redeem Code for six months. They can even prepare themselves for the exams with the mock tests provided on the site. We plan to add Transfer Pricing course on the site.

You also conducted a Finacle program? Could you tell us more about that?

One of the biggest challenges faced by our members, especially in industry, is understanding core banking. We tied-up with Infosys to educate our members on Finacle (Core Banking System) that involved hands-on training to auditors on the basic of Finacle. We organized a pilot of this Auditors Training Program in the company's Bangalore campus.

One of the initiatives that you mentioned above is promotion of XBRL language. Could you elaborate on this and how this will benefit the members?

eXtensible Business Reporting Language is not a proprietary software application; it is royalty-free, open specification for software that benefits all members of the financial information supply chain.

In the next 5 years, all worldwide electronic business reporting and exchange of financial information between machines, applications and people will be made using XBRL. This language would make it easier to create and document financial information by reducing manual work. It would help the chartered accountants integrate disparate systems and apply, monitor, and regulate internal controls.

Under the ICAI initiative, we would conduct technology events to educate members about it and also highlight the opportunities open to them. We have set up a team to develop taxonomy and XBRL tools to make financial statements XBRL compliant. We are also establishing an Indian Jurisdiction for XBRL International.

Where according to you Indian Chartered Accounts stand in the global market?

According to me, Indian community has still a long way to go to match the global standards. Understanding this lacuna, one of the initiatives was to sign an MOU with Information Systems Audit and Control Association USA. Under this agreement we would get access to audit standards, guidelines and procedures. This would also benefit our members in conducting audits effectively.

Another international initiative is the MOU signed with Institute of Chartered Accountants of Sri Lanka to conduct Post Qualification ISA course. It will be carried over in all the 22 foreign chapters of ICAI.

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