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ACCA ‘needs to be more open’ as members suggest governance changes

ACCA must overhaul its governance in order to be more equitable with its members. That’s the message from institute member Tony Thorne, who is seeking to push through numerous changes to the way the body is run at its upcoming AGM.

The eight motions put forward by Thorne and 50 other members include calls for ACCA’s senior management team to be subject to the same disciplinary rules as its members; for the institute’s CEO and executive team to hold ACCA membership having qualified through examinations; and for the practice of delegated proxy voting to cease.

The group also proposes that all senior named council officers be appointed by the members at the AGM and that members of council are given the right of free speech, but ACCA has called on members to knock back the proposals.

The institute has issued explanations for its staunch opposition to all the plans, and why members should vote against them.

But Thorne told Accountancy Age: “We believe it’s the members who are the body and the members should be made aware of what’s going on.”

He cited the example of seeking to call an EGM, which he says would require 1% of the membership – an ever-moving piece because “they’re always signing up new members; members are dying,” he said.

“It’s one of the reasons we put a resolution forward on that because council only need ten members to call an EGM. Council members are no more equal than any other member, so it should be exactly the same. It’s about what’s fair and reasonable and it doesn’t show good corporate governance – that’s what we’re suggesting.”

One of Thorne’s biggest bugbears has been the body’s disciplinary policy, which he would like to see applied more evenly, citing a £100,000 provision made by ACCA in last year’s accounts after some audit qualifications were erroneously awarded.

“It cost the ACCA’s members £100,000 – for an error they made – and as far as we know, there has been no disciplinary action taken against anybody,” he said. “If a member had done something similar, their feet wouldn’t have touched the ground and there would have been publicity regarding their disciplinary. We need to show that we practice what we preach.”

Another area of concern has been the institute’s insistence on charging members’ subscriptions in sterling even when they live overseas.

“Why are we not accepting subscriptions in the currencies in which we operate? We’ve got members in other jurisdictions paying their subscriptions in sterling and having to covert it back into whatever currency it is – for example Malaysian ringgits to run the Malaysian office,” Thorne said.

“Some of our subscriptions are equivalent to a month’s take-home pay in some areas of the world. And they’re having to pay a little bit more for all the conversions.

“We’re told that if they want the quality, that’s the cost of it, but it should be what the cost is to them in that country and we should be more supportive to our members.”

He added, too, that decisions from the top of the institute can affect the wider membership profoundly, and claimed that the institute had commited millions of pounds towards rent for its new Adelphi office.

“It’s the members who pick up the tab and we’re jointly and severally liable. It’s the membership that is the body and they should listen to us all.”

An ACCA spokeswoman told Accountancy Age: “ACCA’s Council has responded in full to the AGM resolutions put forward, as can be seen from the AGM handbook.

“ACCA always works in the best interests of its members and its students.

“ACCA’s move to the Adelphi has been properly costed to ensure that it represents value for the long term for a growing organisation. The relocation has also been necessary because a lease on one building is coming to an end. This is good estates planning, so that all of ACCA’s London employees will be in one location, reflecting our influence as a world class professional membership organisation.

“Council has also rejected the resolution about staff being subject to the same disciplinary rules as members because ACCA has strong disciplinary policies in place for its entire global staff that reflect local laws regarding disciplinary and staff conduct.”

 

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