Grass-roots anger as disciplinary consultation bypasses members. Phillip Inman and Jon Bunn report.
The English ICA faced a volley of criticism this week for its handling of a review aimed at improving disciplinary procedures in the wake of the Tim Smith affair.
Institute councillors said they were alarmed the review would fail to tackle the broad range of complaints by members against the current procedures.
They said the review, which is headed by barrister Michael Beloff QC, is limited in its scope and conducted ?behind closed doors?. They also complained that a deadline for responses set for last Friday, prevented many interested parties from making submissions.
Council member and head of the Small Practitioners Association Peter Mitchell, whose complaints sparked the review, said: ?We wanted it to be an open debate, but it hasn?t been publicised as people would have wished. People will blow a raspberry at the whole thing if it?s not conducted properly.? Another council member, Douglas Llambias, said the terms of reference failed to include how the institute could overcome the refusal of Big Six firms in foreign jurisdictions to submit to investigations by the Joint Disciplinary Scheme.
?We should also review how it is that some cases go to the JDS and some don?t, particularly in the light of criticism from members that recent cases, including Tim Smith, must surely have been of public interest yet did not go before the JDS,? he added.
Solicitor Chris Cope, who represents 30 accountants a year at disciplinary hearings and worked for the institute?s professional conduct department from 1976 to 1983, said: ?The whole review is shrouded in secrecy. The institute must now come into line with other professional bodies and allow an acquitted chartered accountant to recoup his costs.? The institute?s new president Chris Swinson, who set up the Beloff review, claimed it was designed to make sure the disciplinary rules ?were consistent with justice?.
He said: ?This was never set up to be a grand public consultation and we do not think there?s a lot wrong with the rules, but we have to look to see if we are at the cutting edge.?
*English ICA members gave a 54% majority backing to Jeff Wooller?s agm resolution calling for a reduction of council members to 53 while a majority of 95% also backed a special meeting resolution allowing an increase to 75. While only the latter has mandatory effect for change, outgoing president Chris Laini said Wooller?s resolution had brought an ?important bearing? on the issue.