Recapping Rome 2014: the World Congress of Accountants

Four thousand participants from around the world gathered in Rome for four days of debate and discussion focused on international collaboration.

Photo above: Pope Francis greets Carol Bellringer, auditor general of British Columbia.

In 1494, Italian math master Luca Pacioli published the first description of double-entry bookkeeping. Five hundred and 20 years later, Italy again played a role in the history of accounting, this time as host to the 19th World Congress of Accountants (WCOA).

The congress was hailed as the Olympics of accounting during the opening address. But the 4,000 partici­pants from 122 countries — including 1,145 from Nigeria — came to Rome from Nov. 10 to Nov. 13, 2014, for collaboration, not competition.

The spirit of international collabora­tion was helped by an address by Pope Francis during the post-WCOA festivities. "He talked a lot about accountants being in a position of influence and using that for the good of society," says Carol Bellringer, auditor general of British Columbia.

Trending topics

Ethics and the public interest were overarching themes. And it was standing room only in the Fighting Corruption and Fraud session.

"In many countries if accountants take the high road they’ll lose their jobs," says Gord Beal, CPA Canada’s vice-presi­dent, research, guidance and support. "A young man stood up in that session and asked the panel, ‘If I do this, who is going to feed my family?’ People want to do the right thing but there’s a cost."

A strong public sector was another motif. The Enhancing Government Transparency and Accountability plenary featured Ron Salole, who is deputy chair of the International Public Sector Accounting Standards Board and the former vice-president, standards, at CPA Canada.

Other hot topics included emerging markets, data and technology, inclusion and integrated thinking. "Future proof" — a state of preparedness for what’s next — became a conference buzzword.

"Ethics, public sector issues, inte­grated reporting: we’re already looking at them, but hearing it at WCOA reinforces their importance in CPA Canada’s strategies," says Beal. "That’s how we prepare our members for tomorrow."

Ties with China

CPA Canada chats with accountants from China after signing a memorandum of cooperation, courtesy of CICPA

Photo above: CPA Canada chats with accountants from China after signing a memorandum of cooperation.

The WCOA was the ideal event to sign a memorandum of cooperation between CPA Canada and the Chinese Institute of Certified Public Accountants (CICPA). China is home to 14 million accountants and CICPA has an almost 30-year history with CPA Canada’s legacy bodies.

"We have much in common," said Kevin Dancey, president and CEO of CPA Canada, at the signing. Areas of shared interest identified in the memo­randum are professional education, certification, ethics, regulation, standard setting and collaboration between firms.

The WCOA is held every four years. The 2018 congress will be held in Sydney, Australia.