ICAS opts for public disciplinary tribunals

Accountancy bodies are breaking new ground with their disciplinary tribunals.
ICAS has decided to make theirs public, after years of outside pressure and
lagging behind other accountancy bodies.

It comes as the Accountancy and Actuarial Discipline Board (AADB) holds its
first substantially private tribunal into NHS software provider iSoft. The
reasons behind the secrecy are unclear. The case runs parallel to a court case
against four accountants connected with the company. ICAS previously defied
moves by others towards open tribunals. The Financial Reporting Council (FRC)
had gently suggested that public hearings, like those carried out by the AADB,
were the way forward. The ICAEW opted to modernise in this respect, but ICAS was
steadfast in its secrecy.

At a special general meeting on 30 October 2009, ICAS members voted 1,003 to
81 in favour of public hearings.

So why the turnaround? Vivienne Muir, executive director of regulation and
compliance at ICAS, insists the change was not induced by external pressures.
“The trigger was our internal investigation. In 2007, we introduced new
disciplinary measures, so it made sense to change the way the final stage in the
process – the tribunal – was managed.”

But, as Muir says, members have always had the right to a public tribunal
because of human rights laws. So the change does not appear to be for the sake
of the individual.

“We introduced measures to try and reduce the numbers actually going to
tribunal,” says Muir. “For example, the use of consent orders encourages an
admission of liability, which would allow us to issue a penalty without recourse
to a tribunal.”

However, Muir concedes that the number of tribunals might not decrease. “We
had started to see a trend towards fewer tribunals but, with the banking crisis,
there has been an increase in complaints, so that trend could change.”

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