Leader - A case for transparent reform.
Judging by the first two weeks of the new millennium, three issues will dominate the profession this year: transparency, transparency and transparency. From the SEC inquiry into PricewaterhouseCoopers’ staff and partners owning shares in audit clients to Arthur Andersen’s controversial administration of TransTec, 2000 already has a theme. The SEC inquiry best highlights the problem. If a similar inquiry is to be launched here, who should conduct it? The Auditing Practices Board as keeper of auditing standards? The Joint Monitoring Unit of the three chartered institutes? Maybe – in the case of PwC – the English ICA itself? This week, nobody appeared to know whether an inquiry should be conducted, would be conducted or who should conduct it. Hardly a transparent regulatory system. With the Financial Services Authority now firmly established, the collision of acronyms in the City that once passed for transparent regulation is a thing of the past. Newcomers like the Occupational Pensions Regulatory Authority have also demonstrated their effectiveness. As the profession’s new regulator, The Foundation, starts life over the coming months it must ensure its approach is transparent, both in how it acts and how it advertises its role to the wider public. Ironically one of The Foundation’s first moves may be to launch an inquiry along the lines of that effected by the SEC. What better way to demonstrate that it will deliver the transparency that it preaches.