The Eurasian Economic Union (EEU)—formed in 2015 between five post-Soviet countries—is expected to have an integrated single market of 183 million people, a gross domestic product of over USD $2.2 trillion, and trade exports estimated at $750 billion.
Member states—the Republic of Armenia, the Republic of Belarus, the Republic of Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, and the Russian Federation—are in the midst of amending national legislation to implement new requirements that are expected to enhance cooperation and free movement of people, services, and goods by 2022.
In April 2020, we talked with the Union of Accountants and Auditors of the Kyrgyz Republic to understand the implications for the profession in the Kyrgyz Republic. Now Alexandra Gridushko of the newly established Chamber of Auditors of the Republic of Belarus shares how auditing services will be affected in the Republic of Belarus and how the Chamber is preparing for the upcoming changes.
Maria Chuvasheva: What will change for the auditing profession in Belarus as a result of an integrated single market?
Alexandra Gridushko: A single market for auditing services presents many new and exciting opportunities for Belarusian auditors. We expect more employment in and increased capacity of the audit market due to the increase in the number of services provided and the potential increase in fees, thus making the profession more attractive both for experienced and for aspiring professionals. There will be more stringent educational requirements that auditors will now have to fulfill to enhance their competitiveness but ultimately this will expand the range of audit services and improve their quality.
Maria: Is the Belarusian profession ready for the change? What has the Chamber of Auditors been able to do to address some concerns and challenges?
Alexandra: This question has multiple responses. Overall, our professional community is keen to achieve a new level of audit quality and client satisfaction. Joining the EEU is therefore a top priority for all stakeholders—individual auditors, audit firms, regulators, educators, and the Chamber of Auditors as a professional association of auditors.
While there still might be challenges and concerns with the integration, it is positive, and really helps, that all stakeholders agree that implementing new legislation and requirements is a must.
It is necessary to note that the process of transposition of the requirements of the Agreement on Audit Activities within the Framework of the Eurasian Economic Union goes in parallel with operationalizing the Chamber, which was officially established in 2019. I am sure that many IFAC readers can remember what it is like to get a nascent PAO up and running. All secondary regulations, related procedures, rules, and working documents need to be developed, human resources capacity, including staff training, audit quality control policies need to be ensured, and subsequently, we need to introduce the EEU requirements without destabilizing the audit market.
We also need to accelerate the process of bringing accountancy education in line with the international best practices. First, to ensure the system complies with the requirements of the Agreement, and secondly, and possibly more importantly, to ensure that the skills and competencies our students acquire will be enable them to be future-ready and relevant.
Currently educational programming for future accountants and auditors is offered by universities within the course "Accounting, analysis and audit." We realize there is a need to incorporate the requirements of the International Education Standards into the university programs in the Republic of Belarus. This will boost the status of the profession and interest among students and ensure proper implementation of international standards. Cooperation with higher education institutions in the Republic of Belarus, such as the Belarusian State Economic University, Brest State Technical University, Vitebsk State Technological University, and Belarusian State Agricultural Academy, is one of the Chamber’s immediate priorities.
Joining the EEU has been the impetus for several recent developments—such as the establishment of the Chamber and adoption of ISA and the International Code of Ethics for Professional Accountants for all auditors. These advancements demonstrate our country’s commitment to the integration process.
Maria: How else is the Chamber of Auditors supporting and preparing the Belarusian profession for the future?
Alexandra: The Chamber of Auditors was established as a self-regulatory organization for auditors under the 2019 Law on Audit Activities. Our role is more than a regulator though— the Chamber serves as a champion of the profession, representing interests of auditors and audit firms, strengthening the profile of the profession both nationally and regionally, and making it attractive to younger generations. We cooperate with the Ministry of Finance to raise awareness about the need to adopt international standards and best practices and support their implementation in the public interest. Improving the quality of the audit services to ensure competitiveness of the profession when the single market opens is a priority, and the Chamber of Auditors is leading the way.
While we celebrate what has already been accomplished, we are collaborating closely with Belarusian auditors to identify and address any gaps that might affect successful implementation of new requirements. It is also important that the audit community is aware of the benefits of joining the single market. It is essential that all auditors understand why it is important to make these changes. Communication and education are important activities the Chamber is undertaking right now.
We are also intensely engaged in international events to help shape future requirements and offer expertise to regulators in other countries. In October 2020, PAOs of the EEU formally met for the first time to discuss the foreseen challenges of auditing and accounting services in the single market and to develop a common position. PAOs from other neighboring countries and an IFAC representative also attended to share their perspectives and experiences. As a result of the conference, a joint resolution was developed and sent for consideration to the Eurasian Economic Commission to assist with a smoother implementation of the Agreement in the Republic of Belarus and other countries.
Maria: How can the global profession help?
Alexandra: Quality professional qualification is the foundation of our profession and our journey to strengthen our educational programming and professional development of auditors, as I mentioned, would benefit from additional support.
Learning from the experiences of other countries and the support of global bodies, such as IFAC, will help us raise awareness about the need to change our educational approach and share practical examples on developing accountancy education programs at universities such as, for example, syllabi, methodical recommendations on teaching subjects, learning materials for students, among other.
We also recognize that the Chamber would benefit from ISA and IFRS implementation support materials alongside assistance in understanding the trends and future expectations of the profession to ensure that Belarusian students will become internationally qualified professionals.
International cooperation is one of our foci. We are grateful that we can exchange experiences and cooperate with other neighboring countries, including those that have joined the EEU. We have established working relationships with PAOs from Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, among others, and are actively involved in several joint initiatives. We are focused on developing international cooperation, and in the future, I am hopeful we will work with both EEU and non-EEU PAOs.
For the Chamber of Auditors, it has been important to know that we are not alone in this journey and have the support of the global community through IFAC and its member organizations.
If your PAO has relevant experiences to share, in particular regarding assessment of compliance with the single market requirements, we would be extremely grateful for your advice and insights!