Keeping an eye on the professionals

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David Bishop's plan for reorganising the accountancy profession may have been stillborn, but it has certainly galvanised the various bodies into action. While the idea of a number of regional-based organisations reporting into one overarching body has been killed off by factional interests, that does not mean things will necessarily remain as they were.

The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales and the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants are embarked on merger talks. But the Chartered Association of Certified Accountants (Acca) - always the most vocal in its opposition to the Bishop plan - says it has always maintained that the important issue is not the number of accountancy bodies but "the difficulty the public has in clearly distinguishing professionally qualified accountants from others who call themselves 'accountants' but who have lesser qualifications, or none, and who are not regulated by a recognised professional accountancy body."

It has recently suggested establishing a register of accountants and protection of the "accountant" title. But these measures would require primary legislation, which is, not surprisingly, not high on the parliamentary agenda. So today it has announced that it is proposing to its members changing its name to the Association of Chartered Public Accountants. Members, who would henceforth be known as chartered public accountants, will be asked to vote on the matter at an extraordinary general meeting in the autumn.

The move follows a similar application to the Privy Council from the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy for its members to be known as chartered public finance accountants. While Acca points to this move as supporting its own position, the presence of the word "public" in both titles would surely lead to a fresh form of confusion.

But perhaps when it comes to consider all these requests, the Privy Council will also be moved by the desire to clear up another cause of bewilderment - why the Chartered Association of Certified Accountants is known as Acca.

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