The Cayman Islands Society of Professional Accountants' (CISPA) story began in 1970 when Cayman's financial services was in its infancy. The local accounting fraternity recognised that together, they could help blaze the trail for accountancy in Cayman. For more than 30 years, the society worked alongside fellow financial services providers to help catapult the Cayman Islands to become one of the world's largest financial centres.
As the regulatory landscape changed, CISPA needed to change with it. In 2008, the Public Accountants Law came into effect ushering in a new era of regulatory oversight of the accounting profession in the Cayman Islands, with CISPA taking on the role of regulator. In 2014, CISPA appointed its first CEO, Sheree Ebanks, to shift management responsibilities from a voluntary council with outsourced support, to a full-time office. The regulatory framework is itself evolving, as draft changes to current legislation will further strengthen CISPA's regulatory oversight.
CISPA's fifth strategic objective is, "to strengthen and promote highquality practices by the accounting profession locally." Achieving this objective requires a multifaceted approach including quality assurance reviews of firms, stringent requirements for Regular Members and Licensed Practitioners, as well as a complaint and investigation process.
Quality Assurance Reviews
In 2013, CISPA was admitted as a full member of the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC) representing another milestone in Cayman's accounting infrastructure. Since then, CISPA has been monitoring compliance with the International Standard of Quality Control (ISQC1) within the firms of licensed practitioners. In 2014, one large network firm, three midtier firms and six small firms were selected for reviews. The reviews are undertaken by the Institute of Chartered Accountants of England and Wales and look to ensure audits comply with professional standards, and firms meet the requirements of ISQC1 and applicable audit standards. Once the reviews are complete, firms are provided with the findings, and a summary report is published on cispa.ky.
Membership & Licensing Requirements
The criteria for membership and licensing speaks to applicants' competence, compliance with International Accounting Education Standards (IEASB) and governing legislation. Ongoing membership of CISPA is conditional on fulfilling continuing obligations. Regular Members and Licensed Practitioners are expected to act diligently and in accordance with technical, professional and ethical standards. In order to be admitted as a Regular Member of CISPA, an accountant must be in good standing with its Overseas Professional Accounting Institute (OPAI), maintain a minimum requirement of continued professional development hours and comply with IAESB.
According to sections 11 and 12 of the Public Accountants Law (2009 Revision), anyone engaging in public practice must be licensed by CISPA. Because of the nature and level of trust placed in professional audits, the requirements for Licensed Practitioners are more rigorous. Applicants must provide evidence of continuing professional development, a clear police record and must be a partner, director or hold an equivalent position within their firm. All complete applications for licensing and membership go before the Membership and Licensing Committee for review and approval.
Complaints and Investigation
Membership requirements and quality reviews look at competence and compliance, but that is only part of the picture. No oversight framework is complete without a complaints process. Governed by Part IV of the Public Accountants Law (2009 Revision), anyone may bring a complaint against a member of CISPA based on grounds ranging from incompetence to breach of professional standards. Once a formal complaint is received, it is reviewed by Council which determines whether the claim should be referred to an Investigation Committee. The Investigation Committee further refers the complaint to a Disciplinary Tribunal if there is a prima facie case. The Disciplinary Tribunal has three rotating chairs who are not CISPA members. This structure ensures a fair and impartial approach to complaints and disciplinary actions.
CISPA is not the only organisation with oversight responsibilities when it comes to accounting. For example, audit firms are licensed by the Cayman Islands Monetary Authority (CIMA), with additional reporting requirements. CISPA works closely with CIMA and the audit firms to ensure compliance with the Proceeds of Crime Law. In 2011, the Auditors Oversight Law was passed establishing the Auditors Oversight Authority (AOA). The AOA is charged with regulating and supervising firms that conduct audits of the accounts of market traded companies. CISPA is also working with AOA to develop efficiencies in the review and oversight processes.
CISPA has been working closely with the Ministry of Finance on amendments to the Public Accountants Law. During CISPA's 2015 Annual General Meeting, incoming president Baron Jacob said, "We will continue to push toward realising the new Accountants and Public Practice Law, as well as new Quality Regulations and amended Disciplinary Regulations." The proposed legislation reflects changes in international oversight practices, while ensuring CISPA has the framework to enforce international standards.
Globalisation has created a competitive landscape in the world of accounting, and CISPA is poised to lead the accounting profession and the Cayman Islands into the future.
CISPA was formed in the Cayman Islands in 1970 and has evolved into one of the largest professional societies in the Cayman Islands with more than 900 members. The organisation's mission is to further the public interest through the regulation of the accounting profession, promoting the highest standards of professional and ethical conduct in line with the values of transparency, proportionality and accountability. In 2013, CISPA became a full member of the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC), the worldwide organisation representing the profession.
Originally published in Cayman Finance Magazine, 2015-2016, Issue 2
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