Called to account for shilly-shallying

Chartered accountants are failing to lead on regulation, reports Roger Trapp

Ask just about any chartered accountant and they will tell you that regulation is a key issue for 1995. So there is bound to be disappointment at the sort of start made by their institute.

Earlier this month the organisation's council received an eagerly awaited report on the matter from a working party chaired by Chris Swinson - and decided to ask him to gather together another group to report this time next year.

To the more far-sighted members, this was a great let-down. They realise that the so-called dual-role debate, caused by organisations such as the Institute of Chartered Accountants regulating their members as well as representing their interests, threatens the whole ethos under which the professions operate.

Not only was the working party chaired by Mr Swinson, a respected council member who prior to joining Stoy Hayward had run Binder Hamlyn, it also included Douglas Llambias, another council member who is well known for his persistent criticism of the way the institute is run.

Such men as these were not going to come up with a whitewash, it was felt. And, indeed, they did not. They proposed the not entirely radical but nevertheless understandable solution of creating a separate regulatory body outside the ambit of the professional accountancy bodies. This would be responsible for public interest cases in "reserved areas" of financial services, insolvency and audit, and for the joint disciplinary scheme, which investigates serious allegations of misconduct. In para llel, therewould be a practice-review scheme, under which firms not involved in public interest cases would be scrutinised.

However, although council welcomed the report, "which clearly served its purpose of stimulating constructive debate", it decided that "any decision at this stage would be premature". Consequently, Mr Swinson was asked to bring together another group to develop the six proposals explored by the original panel and variants thereof.

According to Mr Swinson, "the council took exactly as much action as I'd always hoped it might". But Mr Llambias is not nearly so philosophical. Muttering about "skullduggery", he believes that the holding up of the proposal amounts to a mugging. Although a majority of council members backed the main recommendations, some office holders close to the big six firms acted to stop it going through, he suggests. It is not yet clear whether he will be a part of Mr Swinson's new, larger, group.

Whether or not he joins, the new working party will be closely watched for signs of how it is tackling the issue. "Industrial and commercial members feel let down," said one.

Such suspicions are given added bite because later this month senior officials of the institute are due to meet their counterparts in the other accountancy bodies for what is expected to be the wake of the Bishop plan for rationalising the profession. Having already decided - despite ostensible support for the plan among chartered accountants - that the scheme was dead, the Chartered Association of Certified Accountants last year came up with a General Medical Council-style proposal for regulating the p rofession. Although it is given fairly short shrift in the Swinson working party report, the idea is at least on the table - while the chartered accountants, in the view of some of the membership, have shot themselves in the foot by delaying publication of their own proposal because of the desire for more information.

Mr Swinson's explanation of the call for extra time was to say: "Whatever others might think, I genuinely believe that it would be foolish for the council to put a stake in the ground and say that's what we're going to die on."

He added that although a year might seem "absurdly generous" to carry out the extra work, it was not that long given that the working party would not only have to consult members but also outside bodies affected by the change, such as the Department of Trade and Industry and the Securities and Investments Board.

There have been some suggestions that Mr Swinson is taking this apparent setback on the chin because he hankers after high office in the institute. But as one who commends to the reader the section of the working party's report on "what's going to happento us if we don't sort this out", he, more than any one else, must be hoping that this time next year his colleagues decide to act - and act promptly.

Independent Partners; request a free guide on NISAs from Hargreaves Lansdown

Travel
travel
News
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014
peopleTim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
News
Jamie and Emily Pharro discovering their friend's prank
video
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift crawls through the legs of twerking dancers in her 'Shake It Off' music video
musicEarl Sweatshirt thinks so
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
Our resilience to stress is to a large extent determined by our genes
science
Travel
travel
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Sport
sportBesiktas 0 Arsenal 0: Champions League qualifying first-leg match ends in stalemate in Istanbul
News
Pornography is more accessible - and harder to avoid - than ever
news... but they still admit watching it
Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush
musicKate Bush asks fans not to take photos at London gigs
News
i100
Extras
indybest
Sport
Manchester United are believed to have made a £15m bid for Marcos Rojo
sportWinger Nani returns to Lisbon for a season-long loan as part of deal
News
news
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
O'Toole as Cornelius Gallus in ‘Katherine of Alexandria’
filmSadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Java/Calypso Developer

    £600 - £800 per day: Harrington Starr: Java/Calypso Developer Java, Calypso, ...

    Quantitative Developer

    £700 per day: Harrington Starr: Quantitative Developer C++, Python, STL, R, PD...

    Web developer (C#, MVC4, HTML5, CSS3, Javascript, Jquery)

    £30000 - £44000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: Web deve...

    Senior Automation QA Engineer (Java, Selenium WebDriver, Agile)

    £40000 - £65000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: Senior A...

    Day In a Page

    Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

    A descent into madness in America's heartlands

    David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
    BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

    BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

    Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home
    Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

    Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

    Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law
    Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world. But could his predictions of war do the same?

    Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world...

    But could his predictions of war do the same?
    Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs: 'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

    'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

    Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs
    Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities, but why?

    Young at hort

    Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities. But why are so many people are swapping sweaty clubs for leafy shrubs?
    Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award: 'making a quip as funny as possible is an art'

    Beyond a joke

    Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
    The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

    The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

    Sadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
    Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire: The joy of camping in a wetland nature reserve and sleeping under the stars

    A wild night out

    Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire offers a rare chance to camp in a wetland nature reserve
    Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition: It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans

    Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition

    It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans
    Besiktas vs Arsenal: Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie

    Besiktas vs Arsenal

    Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie
    Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

    Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

    As the Northern Irishman prepares for the Barclays, he finds time to appear on TV in the States, where he’s now such a global superstar that he needs no introduction
    Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to Formula One

    Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to F1

    The 16-year-old will become the sport’s youngest-ever driver when he makes his debut for Toro Rosso next season
    Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

    Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

    But belated attempts to unite will be to no avail if the Sunni caliphate remains strong in Syria, says Patrick Cockburn
    Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I would end up killing myself in jail'

    Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I'd end up killing myself in jail'

    Following last week's report on prison suicides, the former inmate asks how much progress we have made in the 50 years since the abolition of capital punishment