FRC voices fears over freedom of information

High level talks between the Financial Reporting Council and the DTI have taken place to address the regulator’s fears that it would be unable to perform its role properly should sensitive corporate information become available under the Freedom of Information Act.

Accountancy Age understands that ongoing correspondence between the FRC and the DTI has highlighted concerns that being subject to the FoI Act will result in companies being less willing to cooperate with the body. Observers expect the Act to be applied to the FRC within the next 18 months.

Chief executive Paul Boyle (pictured) said aspects of his work would have to be exempt as confidentiality is vital to companies that co-operate with FRC bodies, such as the Financial Reporting Review Panel and the Accountancy Investigation and Discipline Board.

‘When information is disclosed to us in confidence, then that would have to be exempt,’ said Boyle. ‘If that was not the case we couldn’t do the job.’

The FRC has been busy planning how to cope with the implications of FoI behind closed doors and Boyle admitted this week that the body would ‘probably’ come under the scope of the Act before long.

Patricia Peters, head of corporate governance at the Institute of Directors, said that, while increased transparency would be a good thing, how bodies such as the FRRP and the Investigation and Discipline Board are treated ‘could cause some concern’.

Sources close to the FRC said that coming under the FoI Act would be viewed as a positive move towards greater transparency of the profession.

A spokesman for the Department of Constitutional Affairs said it would listen to any requests for the Act to be extended to other bodies and that it would encourage as many requests for information as possible.

FRRP reports on MG Rover, see page 3

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