4673877Michael Canares, managing consultant of Step Up Consulting services served as one of the plenary speakers in the recently concluded 67th Annual Convention of the Philippine Institute of Certified Public Accountants held Butuan City. Mr. Canares spoke at the sectoral forum on Education, Commerce and Industry, and Public Practice.

Mr. Canares’ talk was entitled ‘Beyond Accounting: What can CPAs do to contribute to development?”.  The abstract of Mr. Canares talk which was well received by the audience is reproduced below:

Accountancy curriculum in the Philippines is developed to prepare students to handle complex accounting information needs of corporate businesses. To a large extent, students become involved in discussions that highlight their role to the growth of businesses as a major contributing factor to the economic growth of a country and the world. But little attention is made on how accountants can participate in a process of ‘development’ that widens the range of human choices (Gasper 2002), on the concept that clearly distinguishes means and end (Sumners 2003), on that which expands the real freedoms that people enjoy (Sen 1999). In effect, accounting as a practice seems to serve only the interests of those who have the capacity to hire accountants. However, accounting knowledge and skills are important whatever be the size of business, and probably even more to those enterprises struggling to survive, to those engaged in non-profit work, and to those who depend on informal entrepreneurship for daily existence.

Literature is replete with a multitude of cases that require the attention of accountants. For example, while entrepreneurial condition in the country is high (GEM 2007) which in turn creates jobs for the poor, these are mostly necessity entrepreneurs and are informal in nature(Siba and Serrano 2006) with less technical support (Habito 2007) especially in the context of finance and financial knowledge (Canares 2011). While cooperatives constitute more than 10% of the Philippine domestic economy (OCDC 2010), several fledgling cooperatives are unable to hire auditors. While it is legislated that local
government units should create internal audit departments, most LGUs in the country do not comply for lack of knowledge and professional personnel. While stricter financial controls are imposed on profit enterprises, lesser attention is drawn on non-profit organizations implementing ‘development’ projects that even resulted to questionable transactions of high-profile NGOs in the country.

This paper argues that there are different avenues where accountants should be able to, and must contribute to a rather unexplored area in the profession – engaging in the development discourse and in helping build a country. The Code of Ethics for Professional Accountants in the country recognizes that the distinguishing mark of the profession is its responsibility to the public and that accountants accept their “duty to society as a whole”. This will provide concrete examples on how accountants in government, in education, and in public practice can fully respond to the current challenges of good governance, growth, poverty, and inequality.