There are few finance professionals who have not heard of the Financial Services Authority, but ask them what the Accountancy Foundation is and most will just shrug their shoulders.
Designed to bring an end to decades of self-regulation by accountants, the only notable characteristics of this new independent watchdog-to-be so far are the painful slowness of its establishment, and its low profile.
Originally scheduled to be up-and-running by the beginning of last year, it still appears to be some months off becoming fully operational.
This slow gestation, and the lack of an existing independent accountancy regulator, is one of the numerous issues highlighted by the Department of Trade and Industry’s report into the Maxwell affair.
It talks about the role the Foundation will play, but said that it was unable to obtain its view on audit independence issues because it had not yet been established.
Given that its chairman, Lord Gordon Borrie QC, former head of the Office of Fair Trading, was appointed getting on for a year and half ago, and that other officials have already been appointed, surely they could have thought of something to say – even if just to say that it would consider the issues arising out of the debacle.
If the Foundation is going to be taken seriously as an independent watchdog designed to protect the public – rather than the accountancy profession – then it is going to have to show the world that it has some bite. So far we have barely heard a whimper.
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