Last-ditch effort to save self-regulation

One last attempt to save self-regulation of the accountancy profession will be made tomorrow when the CIMA council will be asked to drop its objections to the Swinson plan for a new professional watchdog.

Although the Swinson report has already been submitted to the trade department, ministers have made it clear the continuation of self-regulation depends on the UK accountancy bodies signing up to all of its provisions.

Up to now CIMA has refused to agree its members will be covered by the new ethics and disciplinary units which will report to the public interest oversight review board, proposed by Swinson.

Sources close to the DTI say trade secretary Margaret Beckett is willing to give Swinson her blessing, subject to a set of success criteria, if all the CCAB bodies, apart from the Irish ICA, sign up to all of the report’s proposals.

The Irish ICA has refused to sign up to the investigations and discipline units, on the grounds that it would violate Irish sovereignty to have decisions taken in London about members practising in Ireland.

However, members of the Swinson committee are understood to be discussing a mirror-image system under which the Irish would agree to apply the same standards as the London-based investigations and discipline units.

At tomorrow’s CIMA council meeting senior figures are expected to argue the council should seek to change the remit of the disputed units from inside the new organisation.

CIMA’s objections centre on the perception that the ethics unit will be preoccupied with audit issues while it says the record of the existing joint disciplinary scheme suggests the new disciplinary unit will be slow, costly and unable to tackle wrongdoing in all parts of the profession.

If CIMA does get on-board, the DTI is likely to follow the approach it took to the Hampel corporate governance report, when ministers said they would give self-regulation a final chance but warned they would legislate if it failed.

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