Minister’s Speech for the ACCA-MIPA-CIMA Conference 15 November 2010 Mr Chairman Ladies and Gentlemen I am pleased to be in your midst this morning for the opening of this important conference on “Accountants as strategic business partners and contributors to economic development”. This theme in itself bears testimony of the important role that accountants and auditors are called upon to play in shaping the future of our country. By teaming themselves up to create a learning platform for top caliber professionals ACCA Mauritius, MIPA and CIMA are raising to the challenges facing our profession in a globalised world. In fact, to-day capital markets are global and world economies are interdependent. This means that accounting and auditing need continuous strengthening as the business environment is becoming more and more sophisticated. Our profession has evolved in such a way that to-day accountants provide strategic direction and strategic solutions to boards and to governing bodies aiming to ensure that risks are managed appropriately and resources are used responsibly. We are called upon to give confidence to investors and we all know that Mauritius relies on Foreign Direct Investment to keep pace with the actual development trend. I personally believe that more dialogue is needed between policy makers, the accounting profession and other financial industries to consider how to work together and effectively on a global level. The adapt or perish motto is more than ever relevant to our profession since accountants, auditors as well as their clients, have to deal with new issues like on-line financial transactions, corporate citizenship and sustainable development. At a time when best practices constitute the order of the day and when communication, through media, is invading our everyday life, you will be more and more in the public eye. Following the various recent financial scandals in America and France much blame has been laid at the door of the accountancy profession. However, financial reporting has changed radically over the last two decades. We should therefore continue to adopt best practices and ensure that accountants follow a code of ethics, the best accounting and auditing standards so as to improve the current and future business and economic climate. As Minister of Environment and Sustainable Development, I am also interested in the way professional accountants influence organizations to integrate sustainability in their objectives. As the world economy struggles with the economic downturn, we in Mauritius need to focus our efforts on making the best use of the resources we have. Environmental protection and sustainable development are not only my Ministry’s mandate, it concerns people from different walks of life from industries, hotels, SMEs, schools to each and every individual of this country and accountants are no exception. We all have to play our part in achieving sustainable development. I am fully convinced that you can make a difference and contribute to environmental protection and help the country in its sustainable development goal. The vision for “Maurice Ile Durable” is dear to our Prime Minister and should be so for each of us. Although the accounting sector itself might be considered a relatively low-impact sector in terms of direct environmental and social impacts, it is the accountant's involvement in the twin issues of organisational decision-making and external reporting that imposes on the accounting profession the responsibility for understanding, absorbing and articulating the implications of the sustainable development debate. Allow me to share with you some ideas on ways in which you can bring in your contribution to our common sustainability goal. Your direct contribution can be to join the continual effort to prevent pollution by reducing the use of energy, water and material resources; by minimising waste from your offices and going for recycling of waste whenever possible. You can play an important role through sustainable procurement of goods and services and by investing in sustainable infrastructure. We should aim at expanding the boundaries of accounting by pondering over and implementing the following as soon as possible: (i) environmental financial accounting (for external reporting to financial stakeholders) (ii) environmental management accounting (for internal decision-making and reporting purposes) (iii) sustainability accounting (accounting for the social, economic and environmental aspects of decision-making) The accounting profession should become involved in the development of inventories for bio-diversity (accounting for stocks of flora and fauna) and our natural capital. Accountants generally need to become more aware of the impact that social and environmental issues can have on their risk assessment exercises - this awareness gap needs to be dealt with through the educational and continuing professional development processes. The accounting profession - which has been centrally involved in the development of contemporary attitudes towards corporate governance - should seek to understand and incorporate social, environmental and sustainability related issues into national codes of corporate governance. The accounting profession generally is well-placed to commission research to explore the impacts of environmental taxation regimes (e.g. emissions trading systems in the context of climate change). Accountants have a role to play in developing a more integrated form of reporting - in which key environmental, social and sustainability indicators are presented to shareholders and other stakeholders alike within the statutory annual report and accounts package. The education and training regimes of prospective accountants should be modernised to reflect the importance of social, environmental and sustainable development related issues. It would be best if these issues were fully integrated into the normal accounting, auditing and taxation syllabi in much the same way as IT issues are now treated. This recommendation applies as much to university programmes as to the professional syllabi of the accounting bodies. The continuing professional development programmes, run for accountants by their professional bodies, should also reflect the growing strategic importance of social, environmental and sustainable development related issues. It may take some time to achieve all of these, but I hope that these ideas can stimulate and form a central part of a future debate within the profession. With these remarks I thank you for your attention and I declare open the conference on “Accountants as strategic business partners and contributors to economic development”.