Letters – 1 April

Racism in the profession

I was very disappointed to read Mr Gopal’s letter about racism in the profession (18 March, ‘Letters’).

He seems to be making the mistake of thinking that Afro-Caribbeans are the only racial minority in this country.

My experience is that the profession has a record of which it should be proud. I trained with a top five firm in Birmingham where approximately one-third of my audit group was non-white.

It was not unusual to hear clients making racist comments, but I never saw any evidence of racism within my firm. We should not be complacent; I am not saying that the profession is perfect, but unsubstantiated accusations can only do more harm than good.

What makes me really sad about Mr Gopal’s letter is that it may put minority groups off joining a profession where they will be judged for who they are, and what they can do, not for the colour of their skin.

Colin Blakeman, Bishopston, Bristol

Fines can be unlimited Your front-page news item, (‘Beloff report gets only muted welcome from English ICA’, 11 March) on the report by Michael Beloff QC into the English ICA’s disciplinary rules, suggests the maximum fine that can be imposed is #1,000 and that Beloff has not recommended increasing it.

Not so. Tim Smith (the ex-MP) was fined #1,000 because at the date his offence was committed, the maximum fine was #1,000.

The bye-laws were subsequently changed, long before Beloff was instructed. Unlimited fines can now be imposed.

Beloff’s recommendation (accepted by the English ICA Council) that members acquitted by the disciplinary committee should be entitled to their legal costs, is not before time, and would bring the institute into line with ACCA.

I have represented a number of chartered accountants who have incurred substantial legal costs defending themselves before the disciplinary committee (sometimes being represented by expensive Queen’s Counsel), but who have been denied recovering such costs, despite being acquitted. This great injustice is thankfully now to be removed.

I must, though, beg to differ with you about holding hearings in public. Of course, if the complainant wishes to attend, even if he is not to be called to give evidence, he must be allowed to do so. But why extend such rights to the general public?

Sometimes it is necessary to place sensitive material before the committee in relation to a member’s personal and business problems. A member may well instruct his lawyer not to disclose such information to the committee because he would not wish it to fall into the public domain, which would follow if the public was to be present. Inhibiting a member from fully presenting his case cannot be in the interests of justice.

Christopher JA Cope MBAE, High Wycombe, Bucks

Double entry: 4th dimension In reference to your photo and caption (‘It’s audit, but not as we know it’, ‘Letters’, 11 March), have profits & losses been eliminated on the Starship Enterprise?

Surely it is debits and credits that are equal – not assets and liabilities?

Michael Robinson, Berkhamsted, Herts

Look who had a heads Dart What was not reported in your 11 March issue is that Tony Dart (‘Key to Mastermind’, ‘Taking Stock’) is a long-time member of Mensa.

Diana Spencer, Godalming, Surrey

Comedy misspelling? It appears that recent jokey references to mispelling’ (‘Taking Stock’, 18 March) compounded the fun by misspelling ‘misspelling’ … or is this another US import?

Philip Waterhouse, Sleaford, Nottingham

Editor’s note: Glad you spotted our joke spelling. (There is always more than meets the eye in Taking Stock). Time for a blacklist of money launderers Accountants have certain duties to ‘shop’ their clients if they know of their money-laundering activities.

A much more fruitful area would be the compulsory reporting of all prospective clients rejected by a firm, with suspicions given, and also clients lost in the year. This could form part of the JMU annual return and would be a check on the firm’s client acceptance and retention procedure.

Also, institute members should never be expelled or cease to be members for – for example – failure to reply to correspondence and subsequent failure to pay the fine or costs.

The matter should first be probed to the bottom before expelling them: why did they fail to reply to correspondence? Would replying have incriminated them in a really serious matter?

The public has more to fear from wayward ex-members in whom the institute shows no interest than in its existing members who have the incentive of fear of losing their qualification.

Roger Glencross, FCA, New Malden, Surrey

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