ICA’s new charter.

The English ICA has presented a blueprint of its new quality review scheme for the institute’s firms in a bid to stave off a government-imposed regulatory system.

The scheme aimed at small and medium-sized practitioners has been developed over the past year by an institute taskforce headed by Dennis Cox.

Cox, a council member, said: ‘The aim is to make quality synonymous with chartered accountants.’

Based on a business excellence model also used by the Cabinet Office, the scheme will be tailored to meet the needs of the profession unlike existing ISO quality standards, explained Cox.

Firms that adopt the voluntary scheme will be required to submit their business characteristics, such as the number of partners and offices, to obtain institute accreditation.

Accredited firms will be able to sport a quality seal, envisaged as a watermark on paper.

Once a firm is accredited, the institute will carry out a ‘light-touch’ visit to confirm the computerised quality review. A full revalidation will be carried out after three to five years, according to Cox’s draft plan.

Costs are expected to be no more than #500 for the software and between £2,000 and £5,000 for the entire quality process, he said. Around 30 firms will trial the scheme.

Some council members voiced concerns over costs, and regulation of the software and its value to clients.

Gerry Acher, council member and a senior partner at KPMG, said: ‘I’m terrified the quality mark could undervalue the chartered accountant brand. We must strengthen our brand. The kite mark could water it down.’

The Scots ICA launched a ‘well received’ quality review scheme at the beginning of this year.

ACCA’s Andrew Harding, head of its professional standards division, criticised the English ICA for its belated proposal and expressed surprise over its intention to charge for the review.

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