PracticePeople In PracticeWatchdog set to bow out

Watchdog set to bow out

Since its inception as the profession's main watchdog in 1993, the Joint Disciplinary Scheme has undertaken independent investigations into the work and conduct of chartered accountants in cases of public concern, and handled many high-profile inquiries.

Nevertheless it is to be replaced under the reforms ushered in by the government to restore confidence in audit and accountancy in the UK after scandals at Enron and WorldCom.

In January 2003, trade secretary Patricia Hewitt published a review of the accountancy profession’s regulatory regime.

One of its main tasks was to consider ‘whether the existing balance between professional self-regulation and independent regulation is the right one’. That review resulted in several changes to the then status quo.

One of the most important was that a new disciplinary scheme should be created to replace the existing JDS.

The big difference is that the Accountancy Investigation and Discipline Board is a fully-fledged organ of the Financial Reporting Council, disciplining any accountant qualified with four main accountancy bodies (CIMA, CIPFA, ICAEW and ACCA). The JDS only covers ICAEW and ICAS members.

Significantly, the new body’s running costs will be met by the six institutes that make up the Consultative Committee of Accountancy Bodies.

Among the AIDB’s new powers is that tribunal hearings will now take place in public, a major departure from the JDS, whose hearings can be opened to the public if requested by a defendant during an appeal.

This week, Cameron Scott, executive counsel of the AIDB, pledged to publish findings of future investigations ‘as soon as is practicable’. This means after he completes his investigation and before it goes to tribunal ‘unless it is in the public interest not to do so’. Scott said he was ‘comfortable that we have the powers we need’.

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