Forum of firms must act for our benefit

Measures to improve quality and consistency in auditing and reporting across the world can only increase the reliability of financial statements. If this is as far as it goes, those involved should be applauded.

But Accountancy Age has uncovered links between the forum and personalities involved in a body called the Global Steering Committee, made up of senior partners from the seven largest firms. There is nothing sinister about leading players in a particular sector grouping together for mutual benefit or the general good – but this important group is unusual in that it has kept itself out of the public eye for at least two years.

And there are those who speculate the forum is only the beginning of a move by the firms to get more control of other areas of the accountancy world now handled by the institutes; education for example. The big firms have found trying to introduce reforms in this area difficult – look for example at the fuss which followed the ICAEW’s efforts to introduce optional exam papers. To the chagrin of the big firms, the proposals were defeated by a vote of the institute’s members.

Frustrating as democracy sometimes is for the firms, there are issues of fairness and ethics here. The ICAEW, for example, is committed by royal charter to work for the public interest.

If this new forum grows more powerful, and starts to encroach on the institutes’ traditional territory, it will have to ensure that it too acts for the general good, rather than as a trade body based on self-interest.

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