What’s the big ICAS secret?

alex hawkes, accountancy age

The Scottish body has defied moves by others towards open tribunals. The FRC
has gently suggested to the institutes that public hearings, like those carried
out by the AIDB, are the way forward.

The ICAEW, amazingly, has opted to join the modern world in this respect. But
ICAS obstinately says it won’t. Why?

Chief executive Anton Colella says criminal trials allow both parties to call
witnesses. Institute tribunals do not: ‘How then would a member of the public
who complains about a member hope to get satisfaction when the best evidence
might be denied to the hearing? How can the member be treated fairly if they
suffer from the same denial?’

The problem is that Colella’s point raises a broader question than the one he
is trying to answer: not how can members be satisfied with the process in
public, but how can they be satisfied with the process at all?

Perhaps I am missing a fiendishly subtle legal point here, and really it’s
considered normal practice to handle things behind closed doors in such

But I can’t really see why a closed tribunal would give anyone more
satisfaction about being struck off, if they’re not satisfied the process is
fair in the first place. In fact, Colella opens all institute tribunals up to
the charge that they aren’t fit to do what they’re doing at all.

Imagine the scene. A complaint is made, you can’t call a witness who would
clear you of the charge. A panel of ‘experts’ tells you you have misbehaved, and
you lose your license, your livelihood, and possibly much more than that.

The whole scenario is Kafkaesque; the privacy of it makes it no better.

Alex Hawkes is news editor on Accountancy Age

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