Region
round-up

Africa, Middle East, South Asia

• Problems still exist with public expenditure in
South Africa despite the introduction of the Municipal Finance
Management Act and the Public Finance Management Act, according to
Ernst & Young South Africa. The Big Four firm
said the laws were being undermined by corruption and financial
mismanagement and that this had serious consequences for service
delivery. The problems included unauthorised employee expenditure,
unfair tender issues and unauthorised debt.

• Paying tax in the Maldives requires the least amount of
preparation of any country, according to a report from
Pricewaterhouse-Coopers. The remainder of the top
ten was made up of Singapore, Hong Kong, United Arab Emirates,
Oman, Ireland, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, New Zealand and Kiribati. The
ten economies where it was most time-consuming were Panama,
Jamaica, Mauritania, Bolivia, the Gambia, Venezuela, the Central
African Republic, the Republic of Congo, Ukraine and Belarus. The
report found that globally, on average, a company spends almost two
months a year complying with tax regulations – 15 days for
corporate income taxes. However, there are wide variations between
countries.

• The Indian Supreme Court has determined
Accounting Standard (AS) 22 – Accounting for Taxes on Income,
issued by the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI),
is within the power of the provisions of India’s Companies Act of
1956 and valid. When the ICAI issued AS 22 in 2001, it was
challenged by a number of companies on the grounds that it overrode
provisions in the Companies Act.

• The South African
Institute of Chartered Accountants
(SAICA) has appointed a
new project director for tax. Muneer Hassan, a tax and auditing
specialist, has become SAICA’s tax director. He will advise SAICA
members on tax issues that affect accountancy. Before joining
SAICA, Hassan was audit manager and tax technical advisor at the
South African Revenue Services (SARS). Hassan said he hoped to
cement SAICA’s relationship with SARS and assess how SAICA can
influence certain aspects of South African tax laws to ensure that
they are on par with international standards.

• The Institute of Cost and
Management Accountants of Bangladesh
(ICMAB) has requested
help to deal with the effects of Cyclone Sidr. The cyclone hit
southwest Bangladesh on 15 November and claimed more than 3,000
lives. ICMAB sees it as part of its social responsibility to help
those who have suffered from the cyclone. The institute is asking
for interested parties to send contributions, to help the victims
of Sidr, to its executive director.

• The South African accountancy
profession’s broad-based Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) charter
has been signed in Johannesburg. The charter, which has taken four
years to develop, aims to help solve the skills shortage in the
South African accountancy profession. Since 1976, only 912 black
Africans have qualified to become CAs in South Africa. Ignatius
Sehoole, chairman of the BEE negotiation charter forum, said: “The
skills profile of our population must move towards reflecting the
country’s demographics while still meeting growth needs and
maintaining standards.”

Asia-Pacific

• The Australian Accounting Standards Board (AASB)
has issued an interpretation on the Australian petroleum resource
rent tax (PRRT). Australian oil and gas companies will now have to
account for PRRT as an income tax under accounting standard AASB
112. This is according to AASB interpretation 1003. The
interpretation has been issued in response to the diverse
accounting policies adopted by Australian oil and gas companies.
David Boymal, chairman of the AASB, said there were three main
factors that influenced the AASB decision, including creating
consistency among the oil and gas companies in order to foster a
high-quality financial reporting environment in Australia.

Deloitte
Australia
has appointed Nicky Wakefield as a human capital
consulting partner. Wakefield has transferred from Deloitte in the
US where she was a senior leader in the human capital practice. She
has more than ten years of experience and has worked at a number of
different companies and firms including Macquarie Bank and
Price-waterhouseCoopers. Lisa Barry, national leader of Deloitte’s
human capital practice, said: “We are currently experiencing strong
growth and having Nicky on board provides a major boost to our
ability to serve our clients with a wide range of human capital
services.”

Deloitte
Australia
has appointed a new head of enterprise risk
services. Ron Loborec, a specialist in risk management, will take
on the role. Loborec is former head of Enterprise Risk Services in
Queensland and current head of Deloitte’s Energy, Infrastructure
and Resources industry group. Deloitte CEO Giam Swiegers said: “Mr
Loborec is consistently cited in the firm-wide annual review as one
of Deloitte’s best mentors, most inspiring leaders and best client
serving partners.”

• The Hong Kong Institute
of Certified Public Accountants
(HKICPA) has said
quarterly financial statements should not be introduced for those
listed on Hong Kong’s main board. The comments were in response to
the Hong Kong Stock Exchange’s consultation paper on the issue.
HKICPA vice-president Paul Winklemann said: “Experience in some
countries has found that quarterly financial statements have not
brought expected benefits such as increased transparency and market
efficiency. These statements can create their own problems such as
management focus on short-term results and pressure to show
positive numbers at every reporting period.”

• The New Zealand Institute
of Chartered Accountants
(NZICA) is joining the country’s
law society in opposing the Electoral Finance Bill. David Pickens,
the NZICA’s director of government relations and strategic
projects, said: “The institute is deeply concerned that expert
advice from the accounting and legal communities has been
substantially ignored. Accordingly, we join the New Zealand Law
Society in calling for the bill to be dumped. The only way a
workable solution will be achieved is for the bill to be dumped and
redrafted from scratch. To proceed in the face of such widespread
and considered opposition sets a dangerous precedent.”

Europe

• Tax reform is moving forward in Russia, according to
Ernst & Young’s 2007 survey of taxation issues
in Russia. The survey interviewed 58 Russian and international
companies operating in Russia. The survey revealed that despite the
improvement there is disappointment with tax administration. Also,
many respondents were concerned about the authorities’
interpretation and inconsistent application of tax laws. Nearly 84
percent of firms said they had tax disputes with the authorities.
Of these, 82 percent were taken to court.

Nexia
International
member firm Smith &
Williamson
has opened an investment management service at
its Bristol office in the UK. The new team of 15 employees will
join 115 other investment directors at the firm, who currently have
£8.9 billion ($18.3 billion) under management. David Cobb, head of
investment management at Smith & Williamson, said: “The
addition of this new team means we now provide bespoke investment
management and advice from five offices, as well as London.”

• UK firm RSM Bentley
Jennison
has acquired software and consultancy provider
Cetis. The firm said it hopes the acquisition will strengthen its
risk management business. East Midlands-based Cetis provides
e-learning and policy awareness software solutions to the private
and public sectors. Adrian Woodcock, managing director of Cetis,
said: “I am delighted to be joining a forward thinking and
progressive firm of RSM Bentley Jennison’s calibre. The
opportunities for Cetis are now immense.”

Deloitte UK has
announced the appointment of Nick Ritblat to its real estate
practice. He will take up the role of strategic adviser. Ritblat
spent 19 years at UK property investor British Land, 15 of which
were as an executive director. He has also been president of the
British Property Federation for the past year. He will advise on
strategy, originating transactions and advising clients. Deloitte
senior partner and chief executive John Connolly said: “Nick has
been widely recognised for his superb representation of UK property
interests. His broad experience will provide a real competitive
edge for our firm in this important sector.”

• A record number of students have
passed the Institute of Chartered Accountants in
Ireland
(ICAI) exam. The Final Admitting Examination was
passed by 1,082 out of 1,308. Those who pass their exams are
entitled to apply to the ICAI council for admission to the
institute. ICAI director of communications and marketing Ronan
O’Brien said: “This high pass rate is a tribute not just to ICAI’s
high quality intake but to the training contract system operated by
ICAI which by offering mentoring and structured support to the
student secures higher pass rates than those of other accountancy
bodies.”

• A group of tax partners from UK
firm Chiltern has joined Alvarez &
Marsal
(A&M) to launch A&M Taxand
UK
. Chiltern was part of Taxand, which is a global network
of independent tax advisers, until it was acquired by BDO Stoy
Hayward recently. The acquisition meant Chiltern was no longer
eligible to be part of Taxand. A&M Taxand UK will be led by
former Chiltern chief executive David Pert. Managing directors will
be Shiv Mahalingham and Kevin Hindley.

North America, Latin
America

Deloitte US has acquired
Iditarod Systems, an identity and access
management (IAM) consulting firm based in Virginia. Iditarod
Systems was formed in 2002 and works within the consumer business,
diversified financial services and telecommunications industries.
Christopher Lee, national leader of Deloitte’s security and privacy
services practice, explained the new skills Deloitte will acquire:
“This acquisition helps us scale our service delivery capabilities
and enhances our ability to provide our clients with an even more
comprehensive range of IAM solutions.”

Alvarez and
Marsal
is expanding its dispute analysis and forensic
services practice to Boston, US. The new practice will be run by
Pauline Booth and Amy Goot, who will be managing director and
director respectively. Both Booth and Goot have experience in
licence and contract management, compliance and forensic
accounting.

• San Antonio, Texas-based
Padgett, Stratemann and Co
(PS&Co) has merged with Austin-based Sprouse and
Anderson US
. The firms will unite under the name
PS&Co. The expansion will help PS&Co, a member of
RSM McGladrey, move into the insurance and
technology sectors. Sprouse and Anderson has been working in Austin
for more than 45 years. The merger will increase P&SCo’s
headcount to 150.

PricewaterhouseCoopers
Canada
(PwC) has acquired professional services firm
J Walter MacKinnon in a bid to serve the needs of
clients in the province of Price Edward Island. The J Walter
MacKinnon offices will become the PwC Charlottetown office, which
will focus on advisory services, including helping businesses
grow.

• A majority of US small public
companies expect their compliance costs to increase over the next
two years because of reporting and auditing requirements under the
Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX), according to a US Chamber of
Commerce
survey. The survey found that nearly two-thirds
of respondents expect an increase in costs in 2008 and 2009 due to
compliance with SOX Section 404, with 47 percent of those
respondents saying they anticipate their costs will exceed
$100,000. Fifty-nine percent of all respondents said they do not
believe that compliance with the law will lead to fraud detection
or prevention. The majority of respondents (79 percent) indicated
that an additional delay in the compliance deadline would be
helpful to their company.

• Shared service organisations
(SSOs) are becoming a more strategic asset, according to a survey
conducted by Deloitte US. The study found that
reduction of costs and greater efficiency compliance efforts remain
predominant reasons to adopt shared services. It also reported that
a variety of more tactical advantages, such as improved controls,
enhanced process efficiency and greater visibility of data, are
seen as increasingly important benefits. The Deloitte study
revealed that SSOs are specifically assisting in the drive of
Sarbanes-Oxley compliance.