A bill that bears the imprint of the Tunisian National Bar Association has been the subject of debate in the recent days. Naceur Hbaili, accountant, auditor and member of the Association of Accountants of Tunisia gives his views about this bill.
Firstly, which tasks are assigned to the Association of Accountants of Tunisia, a small institution less known to the general public?
The Association of Accountants of Tunisia, established in 2002 under Law No. 2002-16 of February 4, has more than 1900 members. Its main task is accounting assistance and accountancy auditing. Placed under the supervision of the Ministry of Finance, the Association shall: – Ensure the normal operation of the profession, – Guarantee compliance with rules and requirements of the profession – Defend the honor and independence of the profession.
What role could be played by this association at this definite time?
At first, it must be said that the Revolution is an extraordinary gain for the present and future of new Tunisia. We are in post-revolution, in a moment very fragile to the business climate; the return to normal life is necessary. This is the reason why we must redouble our efforts to attract the maximum of foreign investors by convincing them of the importance of investing in Tunisia especially since our country has a highly qualified human reservoir.
Now, on the bill just developed by the National Bar Association and which limits the scope of intervention of your profession. How do you assess it?
This bill is a project … and will remain so. In the current situation which the country is living through, this bill has opened the doors to many controversies because lawyers who drafted this bill have much limited the fields of the profession in several areas, including mainly those of the chartered accountants, the accountants, notaries, bailiffs and tax advisers… With all due respect we owe to lawyers, It should be noted that they took advantage of the situation of crisis that confronts our society since the January 14 Revolution which has changed everything. It should also be noted that that project had been proposed earlier and refused. The lawyers have tried to take advantage of the situation and the legislative vacuum, since laws have not been updated for some time …
What are the main points that have generated so much protest among accountants?
In this bill, points of dispute are in Article 2. This article goes beyond expanding fields of intervention of the lawyer, to limit the accounting profession. As accountants, we considered that the provision of this text is likely to marginalize our role. Article 2 of the Act states that “The lawyer is the only one legally authorized to represent the different parties, whatever their legal status: individuals or entities to assist them in consulting, performing all administrative procedures and defending their cause in all courts and all legal and administrative and disciplinary authorities and the judicial police.”
The problem is that lawyers have not defined the tasks that are theirs, but they have limited our action in respect of all that pertains to business creation, consulting, feasibility study, market study, estimated financial assistance, taxes …
As a member of the Association of Accountants Tunisia, have you thought about a clear strategy to defend your profession?
No strategy has yet been set for the time. The Association of Accountants of Tunisia has denounced this bill in a released statement. Negotiations are continuing. We want our voices to be heard. After the sit-in we had staged on Saturday, March 19, outside the headquarters of the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights, the Vice-President of the Association of Accountants of Tunisia, Faisal Ben Ayed met with Mohamed El Askri, Special Adviser to the Minister of Justice and Human rights to expose our claims for this project and to discuss the disadvantages of this bill which will affect our dignity, our independence and our interests …
The final word?
It is vital now to defend the profession assumed by the accountant and the role assigned to professionals in the economic recovery, strengthening competitiveness and polarizing investments. And here I can say I’m optimistic about the future of Tunisia. In fact, the choice of the path of democracy will consolidate the integration of Tunisia in the global economy and allow creating a business climate that is healthier than before, with greater transparency and good governance.