Accounting in Australia

For the last 6 years, I have been employed within the WorkCover Division of a claims management company, that being Wyatt Gallagher Bassett Workers Compensation P/L (WGB).

To understand my current role, some background information regarding the WorkCover industry in Victoria needs to be provided. In Victoria, the State Government controls the WorkCover scheme. The government body that oversees the WorkCover scheme is the Victorian WorkCover Authority (VWA). The administration of the system is performed by a select number of claims specialists/insurance companies who have successfully tendered for a licence from the VWA. The role of these companies is to act as agents to the VWA, this role involving answering premium queries, managing claims, collecting premium, etc. on behalf of the VWA.

My Position – Premium Account Manager

My role is that of a Premium Account Manager. I am one member of a team of approximately 15 people who are charged with handling WorkCover premium related matters. I work within a call centre environment, taking phone calls, responding to letters received from employers, etc.

My job requires me to register WorkCover policies for new employers, explain premium calculations, review business activities for classification purposes, advise on legislative requirements associated with the Accident Compensation Act 1985, etc.

Quality Control

WGB is a large corporate organisation, and due to its contract with the VWA, must be viewed to be diligent on such matters as quality control. Many parallels can actually be drawn between the operations of WGB and the Professional Standards and the Code of Professional Conduct that accountants must adhere to.

APS 4 – ‘Quality Control’ advises an accountant on desired quality controls that need to be implemented whilst conducting their work. Many of these quality controls are present in my workplace.

Professional Independence – upon commencing my job, I was required to complete a questionnaire that asked questions about any potential conflicts of interest I may have with any existing WGB clients. The purpose of the questionnaire was to identify any potential conflicts of interest, to ensure that the professional service of WGB was not compromised.

Assignment of Personnel to Engagements – meetings with clients to discuss their premiums and management of their claims occurred on a frequent basis. As these meetings could be quite technical, it was mandatory that both a senior and junior officer attended meetings.

Guidance & Assistance – senior staff and management are readily accessible to assist with any difficult queries.

Professional Development – every Tuesday morning is spent attending training sessions, to enable staff to remain current with changes in the WorkCover scheme and to develop us professionally by increasing our knowledge and skills.

Inspection & Review – the majority of work performed by myself is reviewed and inspected by either a senior officer, a manager or by the internal auditor. Work is reviewed on its accuracy and its timeliness.

APS 5 – ‘Quality Control Policies & Procedures’ outlines the policies and procedures to be followed by an accountant on their engagements to ensure a professional service is provided. All work conducted by staff of WGB is governed by procedures, that are formally documented on paper and placed in accessible areas around the workplace (refer attached example of procedure for registration of a Cover Notes).

APS 6 – ‘Statement of Taxation Standards’ outlines the principles under which the accountant must operate. Foremost the accountant must be aware of accounting regulations and guidelines, be technically competent and up to speed with any relevant changes. My role requires me to be knowledgeable on the Accident Compensation (WorkCover Insurance) Act 1993 and The Corporations Law. As WorkCover is a government scheme, it is a legal requirement that an employer take out a WorkCover policy. Frequently, an employer will enquiry about their legal liability, for example, if they employ someone overseas. The information I provide needs to be accurate and backed by the relevant legislation, to enable employers to make informed decisions.

Improving My Role

My role could be improved in the following ways:
-Exposure to other areas: my knowledge regarding WorkCover is mainly isolated to the premium area. There are various other areas within WorkCover that I have not received an exposure to, they being claims management, occupational health and safety, injury prevention, etc.
-Working groups: believe working groups should be formed for the purpose of reviewing standards and procedures currently in place to make sure they are current and void of any errors;
-Personal Development: training on public speaking, letter writing skills, dealing with difficult clients, etc would be beneficial from a customer service point of view.

Applicable Legislation

There are various guidelines and regulations that companies in Australia may or may not need to abide by. Whether they do or don’t will depend on the nature of the company in question.

WGB is a Proprietary Limited company. It is not listed on the Australian Stock Exchange (ASX); therefore it is not subject to the listing rules the ASX have formulated.

It is required though to comply with the AASB standards that are issued by the Australian Accounting Standards Board (AASB). AASB standards are regulations that have the backing of legislation, and compliance with these standards is a requirement by law for certain companies when preparing their financial statements. The Australian Securities & Investments Commission (ASIC) enforces compliance with the AASB’s, under the auspice of The Corporations Law, Section 334. Whether a Proprietary Limited company is required to comply with AASB standards does depend on the size of the company.

A Proprietary Limited company must comply with AASB standards if it satisfies two of the following:
• Has in excess of 50 employees;
• Gross operating revenue exceeds $10M;
• Gross assets exceeds $5M;

As WGB satisfies all the above criteria, they are required to comply with AASB standards.

There also exists Australian Accounting Standards (AAS) that are not mandatory for firms to comply with, but are mandatory for practicing accountants who may be preparing the financial reports for WGB. They are mandatory by the virtue of the accountant’s membership with a professional body, such as the Australian Society of Certified Practicing Accountants (ASCPA) and Institute of Chartered Accountants in Australia (ICAA).

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