We can all argue about when and how it should be introduced and the form it should take, but there is no escaping it. None of us is immune from external scrutiny: not accountants; not lawyers; not politicians – not even journalists. The days when the words of a professional were accepted at face value because of the validity of their qualifying certificate are over.
And rightly so.
With the other institutes already running assurance schemes, the ICAEW has come late to the party. And its handling of the process has been by no means perfect. Yes, it has consulted. And yes, it conducted pilots.
But, as the Accountancy Age letters page has demonstrated, there are still significant pockets of dissatisfaction.
This may have less to do with practice assurance and more to do with the relationship the institute has with its members, but that’s another story.
Still wondering about the benefits? Well, the news this week that the government is lending a sympathetic ear to calls for a liability cap for auditors should change your mind.
Interpret it as a trade-off, if you like. The government is willing to consider making existing rules more generous because accountancy has shown itself willing to change.
Closer to the truth, however, is an alternative interpretation – the fact accountancy is willing to prove its ongoing commitment to professionalism is instrumental in allowing government to tackle the very real issue of auditors’ exposure.
And don’t for a minute pretend that something like practice assurance can exist only in isolation. If, as a member of a UK accountancy body, the level of your continuing professional development is not being monitored, it soon will be. CPD and practice assurance are irrevocably intertwined.
Practice assurance voting slips should by now be with all ICAEW members.
A ‘no’ vote would not just be a setback for Moorgate Place, it would harm the reputation and standing of accountants everywhere.
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