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Tougher requirements needed to become a public accountant

The more stringent registration requirements for public accountants include the mandatory requirement that applicants have specific audit management experience, said ACRA.

SINGAPORE: The requirements have been raised for those applying to become public accountants. Starting from February next year, they will need to accumulate around five years of work experience before they can apply to become public accountants - up from about three years currently.

The more stringent registration requirements for public accountants include the mandatory requirement that applicants have specific audit management experience, the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA) said on Friday (Aug 1).

ACRA said that from Feb 1, 2015, all applicants who want to become public accountants must have gained 2,500 hours of experience in audit management, which would take about two years. In order to ensure that the audit management experience is gained at an appropriately senior level, the 2,500 hours will only count after an applicant has completed his professional accountancy training.

In addition, the applicant's experience needs to be supervised and attested by an Audit Principal, who is someone with at least five years of experience as a public accountant and has a good track record with ACRA.

Speaking at the Auditing and Assurance Conference organised by the Institute of Singapore Chartered Accountants (ISCA), ACRA chief executive Kenneth Yap said the change will ensure closer alignment of the practical experience requirements with a public accountant's core responsibility of ensuring high quality audits.

"Audit is a cornerstone of public confidence in capital markets. We must ensure that audits in Singapore remain of the highest quality. Audit opinions rest on sound judgement and healthy scepticism, the application of which can only be gained through adequate and relevant experience," he said.

In Singapore, only a public accountant or an accounting entity approved by ACRA may provide an audit opinion on financial statements.

ACRA said the revised requirements were drawn up in consultation with the professional accountancy bodies and representatives from both large and small audit firms. It added that a public consultation was also conducted in 2012, which showed broad support for the proposed new requirements.

"It's definitely a step in the right direction; and it's in line with international practices and education standards," said Loh Khum Wai,Country Managing Partner (Singapore), Ernst & Young. 

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