The head of the ICAEW this week defended the decision of the institute's leadership to push forward with the introduction of practice assurance in the face of mounting criticism from its members.
Chief executive Eric Anstee said the issue went to the ‘very heart of what it means to be a practicing accountant’ and would reassure the public that they were receiving a service ‘second to none’.
In recent weeks, the institute has faced a deluge of criticism that practice assurance only increases the bureaucratic burden for small firms, while failing to address the problems at big firms that really challenge public confidence in accountants. ‘The institute is a democratic organisation and it is right that significant initiatives such as this are put to the vote.’
He went on to defend the ICAEW’s model for practice assurance, which is being introduced some time after the decision to do so.
‘To those who accuse us of being behind the game, I would say that it is better to take the time to get it right than to rush through a model that simply will not provide the right level of support,’ Anstee wrote.
Tony Bennewith, an institute council member, said he had been set against practice assurance, but was now ready to ‘bow to the inevitable’ because without ICAEW action the government would step in with something far worse. Helen Philips, president of the UK200 Group, said: ‘Where we are in fundamental disagreement with the ICAEW is on its proposal for five-yearly reviews of all members. It will not give the public the assurance that firms are being sufficiently monitored.’
But she added: ‘The institute should rely on the integrity of its members to contribute in a democratic vote and if members don?t want the propsoal it should be dropped.’
Eric Anstee’s full comments will appear online tomorrow.