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Sunday, May 8, 2011

Will the mandatory industry cost audit spark off a management accountancy boom?

Since independence, the Indian management accountancy body(ICWAI) was always viewed as a poor cousin of its financial accounting counterpart(ICAI). And the reasons were not too far to seek. Chartered accountants(CAs) who had the inroad into the company via statutory audits,were able to cross sell their services for internal audits, taxation etc(either themselves or via affiliates though this practice died down recently after the auditor independence norms were tweaked). Also, audits represent a steady revenue flow for the company and the assignments can be executed using grunt labour(the articled trainees). No wonder then, that the ICWAI also wanted 'cost audits' to be made compulsary for all companies, unlike the company specific orders issued earlier.

For some background, till 2011, financial record keeping was mandated by the Companies act-and so was their audit-for ALL companies. But the cost accounting record keeping, while mandated for most companies in an industry, was subject to audit only when a company specific order was issued. And this would typically only happen when the product/service in question was regulated, inflation sensitive etc.

Two MCA notifications(http://www.icwai.org/icwai/docs/cost-order-02052011.pdf and http://www.icwai.org/icwai/docs/cost-order-03052011.pdf) have mandated compulsary cost audit from the FY2011-12 onwards, for companies in specified industries fulfilling ANY of the 2 conditions below
  1. FY 2010-11 Revenues from ALL products/services=>Rs 1000 million
  2. Companies listed/in process of listing equity debt security on any stock exchange-in/out of India
So far, the industries affected are
  1. Bulk Drugs, Formulations, Industrial Alcohol, Fertilizers, Sugar, Electricity, Petroleum, Telecommunications(for these companies Revenues requirement slashed to INR 200 million OR a networth of Rs 50 million). 
  2. Cement, Tyres/Tubes, Steel, Paper, Insecticides. 
The major companies would already have been covered under cost audit scope earlier but now this will bring all the listed companies under cost audit view. And that universe is mind boggling. And once cost accountants get that statutory assignment, they would be in a better position to do(if not in that company but other companies in the industry) internal audits, transfer pricing etc. And given the enhanced entry norms into ICWAI(the exams are no longer the joke they were and the syllabus has been revised), the reduced supply would push up the rewards for those in the sector, specially the more reputed cost accounting firms who will now be sought after by everyone.

On the flip side, this may discourage the formation of inter disciplinary partnerships involving cost accountants, because now they have much more to lose if they permit other professionals to share in that initial lucrative pie for the first 7-8 years. It would be interesting to see the power equations reflected in such partnership agreements. Overall, I did feel that management accountants in India are quite understated. But with the quality of talent in the profession improving etc, they do deserve such professional opportunities now

On 30th Nov 2011, the Corporate Affairs Ministry issued a circular which substantially whittled down the scope of cost audit rules(http://members.icwai.org/members/docs/mca/CostAccountingRecord.pdf). So now is not the time to uncork the bubbly.

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