ICAS’s closed door policy is out of step

It’s last-man-standing attitude comes about after the ICAEW revealed last
week that it’s own hearing would throw open the doors for public scrutiny.

That the ICAEW made this move should not surprise us. The new disciplinary
body for public interest cases, the Accountancy Investigation and Discipline
Board has written into its founding principles that hearings should take place
in the open and the Public Oversight Board has said that public hearings are
best practice.

That leaves ICAS as the only institute insisting that its members should be
dealt with behind a shroud of secrecy. For that, in practice, is essentially
what will happen if it continues to deal with members in that way.

ICAS argues that open hearings are unlikely to persuade witnesses from
outside the profession to appear, and as there are no powers to compel people to
give evidence, public disciplinaries should remain a closed book. This overlooks
the fact that witness statements can always be taken and submitted to the
tribunals. Plus, none of the other bodies have deemed this a big enough worry to
undermine public hearings.

At a time when many in the profession are attempting to modernise regulation
this is a disappointment. Holding disciplinaries in public has two objectives.
First, the disciplinary body is seen to be doing its job. Second, the member
under suspicion is seen to get a fair hearing.

These principles are, in fact, as old the tradition of jury trials. It seems
a shame that ICAS finds it necessary ignore this precedent.

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