Date posted: 04/03/2024

Safeguarding our profession’s reputation

On 23 February and 5 March CA ANZ will appear at two federal parliamentary inquiries.

Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand will appear at two federal parliamentary inquiries. On 22 February our CEO Ainslie van Onselen wrote to all Australian members outlining why both inquiries are an opportunity to make clear the important role CA ANZ plays as a professional membership body, emphasising that the overwhelming majority of our members do the right thing. A copy of the email is below.

*Note the date of CA ANZ's appearance at the PJC inquiry has changed to 5 March.*

Email to all Australian Members re: Safeguarding our profession’s reputation

22 February, 2024

Dear member,

After a year in which unacceptable conduct by a few has called into question our broader community’s ethics, safeguarding the profession’s reputation remains at the top of our agenda.

Over the past 12 months, a Senate inquiry has focused on consultants within the public service, and a second inquiry by a Parliamentary Joint Committee (PJC) is looking more broadly at structural challenges in the audit, assurance and consultancy ecosystem.

Alongside President Tinashe Kamangira FCA and board Chair John Palermo FCA, I will be attending tomorrow’s Senate inquiry at 9am, and then a few weeks later at the PJC inquiry on 6 March. Both inquiries are an important opportunity to make clear the important role we play as a professional membership body, emphasising that the overwhelming majority of our members do the right thing.

We will remind both committees of last year’s member vote in favour of supporting amendments to our By-Laws that further improve our ability to respond to the contemporary issues we see today. Just some of these changes include increased fines for firm events and stronger, more efficient investigative powers for our independent Professional Conduct Committee to hold members and former members to account.

We’ll also remind them that we are a professional membership body, not a government regulator. While our By-Laws give us the power to hold members to account, the ability to impose significantly higher fines would require statutory powers under legislation and if the government chooses to go down that path, we will welcome it.

While the member vote was very important, there is more that can be done, and I hope that you have had time to read Going Further – A roadmap to enhanced trust and accountability. Developed through deep engagement with members via our Council and Board, it sets out 14 clear actions for CA ANZ, members and key stakeholders including government and large firms. Among its actions:

  • strengthening our conduct and disciplinary functions by implementing the extensive recommendations from our Professional Conduct Review;
  • making it mandatory to annually reaffirm your intention to comply with The Chartered Accountant’s Commitment (previously known as The Charge), and increasing from two to six hours the amount of compulsory ethics CPD you need to undertake every triennium; and
  • introducing a new program for ‘affiliate’ members, so they are clear on their obligations as members of CA ANZ.

The roadmap also acknowledges the importance of Australia’s regulatory frameworks keeping pace with community expectations and the contemporary risks and challenges facing the public. We believe there are clear opportunities to strengthen regulation such as:

  • requesting the Accounting Professional & Ethical Standards Board to undertake consultation on an amendment to the Code of Ethics to include a positive duty for members to report significant breaches by other members, which we have already done;
  • for the Government to respond to, and provide clear policy direction in relation to, the recommendations that came from the PJC on Corporations and Financial Services inquiry into the Regulation of Auditing in Australia, which handed down its report in 2020;
  • clarifying ASIC’s jurisdiction when it comes to regulating audit firms;
  • strengthening whistleblower protections; and
  • removing impediments to appropriate and necessary information sharing between agencies and professional bodies.

We will of course communicate with you ahead of implementing member-facing changes, but I trust you’ll support the clear intent Going Further represents. It affirms the path we believe we must take to maintain trust and accountability in our profession.

If you would like to watch tomorrow’s hearing, visit the 'Watch, Read, Listen' page of the Parliament of Australia website, and click on the Senate, Finance & Public Administration References Committee (Management and assurance of integrity by consulting services).

Yours sincerely,

Ainslie van Onselen
Chief Executive Officer 

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