Since the 1980s political parties have placed great emphasis on protection for the consumer and to that end have introduced the Financial Services Act, together with the imposition of more and more regulations and monitoring.
To enable someone to be called a solicitor, doctor, dentist, architect or surveyor it is necessary to pass the relevant exams to qualify for these professions, and anyone using these titles without having the necessary qualifications is liable to prosecution.
What protection does the unsuspecting public have from unqualified accountants who attempt to pass themselves off as qualified? None. The DTI is ultimately responsible for policing the system and the Inland Revenue is in the forefront as it is aware of the problem but apparently professes to be unable to solve it.
If a qualified accountant does not do his job properly, the Revenue will report him to his professional body with a view to him being investigated and potentially struck off and prevented from trading.
If an unqualified accountant is discovered to be failing in his job, the Inland Revenue says no action can be taken because there is no professional body to report to.
At present the system is clearly not fair for the qualified accountants and does not protect the consumer.
In order to alter the situation for the better, the law should be changed to prevent the unqualified from calling themselves accountants.
However, it may be difficult to persuade politicians to back this move on its own, due to fears of restricting competition.
If the unqualified were also offered the opportunity to join the qualified accountants, by becoming members of the Association of Accounting Technicians, with a view to progressing to fully qualified membership, then no one could reasonably complain that they were being excluded.
The consumer would have the prospect of being better protected and, ultimately, all accountants would then be qualified in a recognised qualification, and quality review systems could apply across the board.
If these changes were to be made many qualified accountants would feel that the sector was finally on an even playing field.
– Grant Walker is a partner in Walker Harris of Montrose.
DO NOT EXCLUDE ABLE PRACTITIONERS
A row has broken out in Scotland, and this time it has nothing to do with the old north-south rivalries.
A group of seven chartered and certified practitioners in Montrose has become increasingly concerned about the effects on their businesses of non chartered/ certified practitioners operating in their area.
The ‘Magnificent Seven’, as they have been called, appear concerned about the activities of members of the Wigan-based Corporation of Public Accountants (CPA).
Alarmed at the haemorrhaging of clients to the CPA practitioners, they are calling for the introduction of legislation to outlaw the non-chartered practitioner.
The CPA was founded in 1989 to provide a professional organisation for the small general accounting practitioner engaged in public practice within the UK.
It has some 700 members who are required to have an NVQ in accounting at level 4, be engaged on an approved course of continuing professional education, have professional indemnity insurance adequate for the size of their practice and subscribe to the CPA’s code of professional and ethical conduct.
My view, as chief executive of the CPA, is that if these seven and their ilk are unable to take the cut and thrust of the competitive business world then perhaps they ought not to be in business.
The consumer must have the choice of an accountant appropriate to their needs.
The CPA is all for regulation provided it does not exclude those with adequate technical competence/ expertise.
The government and the CCAB bodies had the opportunity, only recently, to introduce regulation for the profession as a whole, through the Accountancy Foundation. Despite representations by the CPA the government decided that the Foundation’s remit ought to be confined to the CCAB body members.
Although part of the Office of Fair Trading’s review of the professions recommended that the Foundation’s remit ought to be extended to non-CCAB accountants, the government has so far chosen not to heed this advice.
What concerns the CPA is that there are some 6,000 accountants engaged in public practice within the UK who are outside of the government’s regulatory mechanism for accountants.
The CPA believes it cannot be beyond the wit of the CCAB bodies to put proposals to the government for an all-inclusive regulatory mechanism for the profession as a whole.
– Kevin Henry is chief executive of the Wigan-based Corporation of Public Accountants.
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