Finance: Opening up the books

Accountants are debating increased democracy within the profession. Roger Trapp reports

Jeff Wooller may have received a terrible drubbing at last week'sannual general meeting of the Institute of Chartered Accountants. But about one thing he is likely to be proved right: democracy, the issue that brought him to the event, is not going to go away.

Mr Wooller, one of the so-called Ginger Group that also claims Labour MP Austin Mitchell and the accountancy academic Prem Sikka as members, vowed to be back next year. Whether that visit will give him cause for complaint or satisfaction is, frankly, in the hands of the institute.

The day after the meeting the institute's new president, Brian Currie, used his inaugural speech to council to put democracy and consultation at the top of his priority list. "I think we have a well-balanced, democratic and open constitution, but we must continue the debate and see what could be changed for the better," he said.

As the previous day, he pointed out that the constitutional review being headed by Peter Gerrard, former senior partner of Lovell White Durrant, would play a central role in the discussions.

But, as has been demonstrated in such matters as regulation, the institute is a past master at setting up working parties and initiating debates, but somewhat less accomplished at achieving swift results. According to Keith Woodley, president until last week, Mr Gerrard was appointed in order to provide "objective and independent advice" in a report to be presented to council next January. But there is a danger that the organisation's hierarchy has already decided what is needed, and that is not much.

Mr Currie's conciliatory but none the less firm speech at the meeting was no doubt at least partly responsible for Mr Wooller attracting only one vote besides those of himself and his seconder, Tony Marshall, in the face of 247 opponents. But on Wednesday the new president was confident enough to say: "We don't need revolutionary changes, we need to pursue a steady evolutionary progress towards even more democracy."

That is just the sort of thing that those steady professionals would like to hear, but it is also the sort of thing that can be counted upon to make Mr Wooller and his colleagues stiffen their resolve in their demands for the whole 109,000-strong membership, and not only the 70-odd members of council, to be able to vote for the president.

As was stressed at the AGM, the English institute is not the sole target of this activity. Earlier this year, Mr Sikka, professor of accounting at Essex University, failed for the second time to gain election to the council of the Chartered Association of Certified Accountants on a pro- democracy agenda.

He and Mr Mitchell have also had a two-hour meeting with Allan McNab and Rod Hill, respectively president and senior vice-president of the Chartered Association of Certified Accountants. Mr McNab said afterwards that the discussion on openness, democracy and accountability within the professions had been "most valuable" in helping the organisation to set the agenda for consulting members and students and for October's council conference at which democracy will be one of the key issues debated. Mr Mitchell and Professor Sikka have also been invited to "stimulate discussion" at that event.

Of the leading auditing bodies, only the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland appears to be avoiding the group's attentions. Apparently, Mr Mitchell did approach the body some time ago in an effort to ascertain its policies in this area, but has not been heard from since being sent a full reply.

Maybe, suggested a spokesman, that was because the letter pointed out that the council was entirely democratically elected, with 10 signatures being required to nominate a council member and 50 to nominate one of the three main office-holders. If the nominations exceed the number of vacancies, there is a secret ballot of all 14,000 members.

All the bodies have made great strides in the area of openness in recent years. Whether they go further will depend on the sort of views that are aired over the coming months.

However, it cannot be true that there is as little interest in the matter as last week's vote at the English institute's annual meeting suggests. Perhaps the somewhat strange tactics of Mr Wooller and Mr Marshall at that event were born of years of frustration, but surely even they must realise that the way to win over their fellow professionals is to behave like reasonable people rather than ape the antics of those who hijack council meetings with endless points of order, semantic questions and concerns about whether the initial letters of the words chartered accountants should be lower or upper case.

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

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Rita Ora will replace Kylie Minogue as a judge on The Voice 2015
tv
Life and Style
tech
Life and Style
Alan Turing, who was convicted of gross indecency in 1952, was granted a royal pardon last year
life
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
Life and Style
life
Arts and Entertainment
Tennis player Andy Murray's mum Judy has been paired with Anton du Beke for Strictly Come Dancing. 'I'm absolutely delighted,' she said.
tvJudy Murray 'struggling' to let Anton Du Beke take control on Strictly
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of Dark Side of the Moon
musicCan 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition? See for yourself
Sport
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
rugby
Extras
indybest
Voices
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
Arts and Entertainment
Salmond told a Scottish television chat show in 2001that he would also sit in front of a mirror and say things like,
tvCelebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
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

    IT Project manager - Web E-commerce

    £65000 Per Annum Benefits + bonus: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: If you are...

    Trainee / Experienced Recruitment Consultants

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: SThree are a global FTSE 250 ...

    Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Soho

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40000: SThree: As a Recruitment Consultant, y...

    Trainee Recruitment Consultants - Banking & Finance

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: SThree Group have been well e...

    Day In a Page

    Secret politics of the weekly shop

    The politics of the weekly shop

    New app reveals political leanings of food companies
    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
    Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

    Beware Wet Paint

    The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
    A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

    Not That Kind of Girl:

    A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

    In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

    Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
    Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

    Model mother

    Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
    Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

    Apple still the coolest brand

    Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits