Leader – 11 March

The English ICA’s Council has shown considerable courage in endorsing most of the recommendations made by Michael Beloff QC for the reform of the institute’s disciplinary procedures. All it needs to do now is keep its nerve and accept the really difficult parts of his report.

Few will object to the new ‘quick and quiet’ procedure for disciplining minor offenders. There was always a strong case for saying that the full weight of the institute’s disciplinary system should not be brought to bear on a sole practitioner accused of a minor infraction of the rules.

Ensuring that tribunals include at least one member from the same part of the profession as the accused, and creating a power to pay the costs of a vindicated member are also bound to be popular.

Far more difficult is Beloff’s proposal that major disciplinaries are held in public. But just because something is unpopular does not mean that it is not right. Unused as the institute may be to the concept, it could learn something from ACCA, which has enhanced its profession image no end by holding its tribunal hearings in public.

With the whole issue of self-regulation under the spotlight, the institute cannot afford to misjudge this issue. Other professions understand that the privileges of professional status carry a price. In this case, that price is open and public justice for those with cause to complain about accountants.

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