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.

Life and Style
“What is it like being a girl?” was the question on the lips of one inquisitive Reddit user this week
News
peopleDave Legeno, the actor who played werewolf Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter films, has died
Arts and Entertainment
Armando Iannucci, the creator of 'The Thick of It' says he has
tvArmando Iannucci to concentrate on US show Veep
Life and Style
beauty
PROMOTED VIDEO
Sport
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
transfers
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

Sport
German supporters (left) and Argentina fans
world cup 2014Final gives England fans a choice between to old enemies
Arts and Entertainment
A still from the worldwide Dawn of the Planet of the Apes trailer debut
film
News
peopleMario Balotelli poses with 'shotgun' in controversial Instagram pic
News
A mugshot of Ian Watkins released by South Wales Police following his guilty pleas
peopleBandmates open up about abuse
Sport
Basketball superstar LeBron James gets into his stride for the Cleveland Cavaliers
sportNBA superstar announces decision to return to Cleveland Cavaliers
Sport
Javier Mascherano of Argentina tackles Arjen Robben of the Netherlands as he attempts a shot
world cup 2014
Arts and Entertainment
The successful ITV drama Broadchurch starring David Tenant and Olivia Coleman came to an end tonight
tv
Sport
Four ski officials in Slovenia have been suspended following allegations of results rigging
sportFour Slovenian officials suspended after allegations they helped violinist get slalom place
News
14 March 2011: George Clooney testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a hearing titled 'Sudan and South Sudan: Independence and Insecurity.' Clooney is co-founder of the Satellite Sentinel Project which uses private satellites to collect evidence of crimes against civilian populations in Sudan
people
Arts and Entertainment
Balaban is indirectly responsible for the existence of Downton Abbey, having first discovered Julian Fellowes' talents as a screenwriter
tvCast members told to lose weight after snacking on set
Life and Style
More than half of young adults have engaged in 'unwanted but consensual sexting with a committed partner,' according to research
tech
Life and Style
A binge is classed as four or more alcoholic drinks for women and five or more for men, consumed over a roughly two-hour period
tech
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
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

    BC2

    £50000 - £70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Consultant (Fina...

    Programme Support, Coms, Bristol, £300-350p/d

    £300 - £350 per day + competitive: Orgtel: My client, a leading bank, is curre...

    (Junior) IT Systems Administrator / Infrastructure Analyst

    £28000 - £32000 per annum + pension, 25 days holiday: Ashdown Group: A highly ...

    Finance Officer

    Negotiable: Randstad Education Birmingham: Randstad Education are seeking a Fi...

    Day In a Page

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
    Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

    A writer spends a night on the streets

    Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
    Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
    Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

    Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

    Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
    Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

    Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

    This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
    Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

    Why did we stop eating whelks?

    Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
    10 best women's sunglasses

    In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

    From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
    Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    The German people demand an end to the fighting
    New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

    New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

    For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
    Can scientists save the world's sea life from

    Can scientists save our sea life?

    By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
    Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

    Richard III review

    Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice