EXCLUSIVE: CPA Australia breaks silence on leadership saga

Following an emergency board meeting this week, CPA Australia has announced it will be conducting a major review and has confirmed further board resignations.

CPA Australia has advised Accountants Daily that chief executive of the association, Alex Malley, will be retaining his position as chief executive.

“Alex is executing the strategies set and monitored by the board over his tenure. He is delivering at the highest possible level and he is doing it under considerable duress,” president Jim Dickson said, in a statement received by Accountants Daily ahead of a public announcement today.

Mr Malley expressed confidence that he will be able to deliver results for the professional membership, and for the broader accounting profession.

Mr Dickson also formally advised that directors Deborah Ong, Jennifer Lang and Martin Hourigan stepped down from the board. This follows reports from Fairfax Media about the resignations earlier this week.

Former CPA divisional vice president for the ACT, Tim Youngberry, has been appointed to the board until 30 September. Mr Dickson said this is consistent with CPA Australia’s constitution, which enables the board to appoint a director in “circumstances such as these.”

The annual director renewal process is continuing, according to Mr Dickson, and all positions will be filled by 30 September.

The series of board resignations began with president and chair Tyrone Carlin handing over the reins to Mr Dickson earlier this month.

Director David Spong resigned from his position on Friday last week, following the resignations of Richard Alston and Kerry Ryan in the days preceding. CPA Australia confirmed these resignations on June 11.

Mr Dickson said there has been “unreasonable” levels of pressure on members of the board, which led him to advise them at a board meeting on Tuesday to prioritise their personal lives during this saga.

“This systematic campaign of targeting our directors has taken a toll,” Mr Dickson said.

“Recently, my wife received an unannounced knock on the door at our home from a journalist. They had a photographer positioned down the drive. It was a public holiday. I was not at home,” he said.

“My clear message to our directors was that they needed to prioritise their families and careers, and that it would be perfectly understandable if they needed to resign,” he added.

Headed for review

At the meeting on Tuesday, the board initiated a process of establishing an independent panel to conduct a review of all claims made in relation to CPA Australia and make recommendations for practices moving forward.

Mr Dickson advised that the panel will be chaired by Air Chief Marshal (Ret'd) Sir Angus Houston AK AFC, former chief of the Australian Defence Force.

Ian McPhee AO PSM FCPA, a former auditor-general for Australia, will also be a panellist to the review.

A third person will also be appointed to the review, which CPA Australia will advise at a later date.

Feedback shakeup

The board has also moved to address concerns about member feedback, and to that end, said it plans to commence a “comprehensive program” focused on how feedback is received and dealt with.

“We will be holding this new series of open forums in our divisional offices. Representatives of the board will be attending each of these forums. This will be open dialogue. We will have more to say about the details of these forums in due course,” Mr Dickson said.

Leading the charge

The leadership shake up and series of changes from CPA Australia follows swelling discontent from the association’s member base, led principally by NSW-based accountant Brett Stevenson.

One of the rebel group’s biggest steps was forcing increased remuneration disclosure of the CPA Australia and CPA Australia Advice directors and key executives, including Mr Malley.  

The increased disclosure follows CPA Australia’s commitment at its annual general meeting, held in Singapore, to re-think its process and model for remuneration disclosure.

As per what is permitted under the Corporations Act, Mr Stevenson obtained a copy of CPA Australia’s register of members, including contact details.

After paying $2,351.16 — which he and other members financed — Mr Stevenson told Accountants Daily he was frustrated it did not come complete with email addresses.

Minister reacts

In response to the ongoing saga, Senator for South Australia Nick Xenophon introduced an amendment to the Senate earlier this week, in an effort to make it simpler for members of professional bodies to communicate with each other.

Mr Xenophon said the bill will ensure email addresses are required to be included in the members’ register, along with the members’ name, address and date of joining.

“This is a reasonable amendment to enable cost-effective communication with members. There are already sufficient protections in the Act to prevent any vexatious and improper uses of the members register and, importantly, the bill does not affect the operation of the existing protections that apply to the inspection and use of information on registers,” he said.

It will remain a criminal offence to misuse the information contained on the register, including by adding email addresses to mailing lists without permission.

“This amendment is needed to take into account that most communication between companies and members is via email. It brings this particular provision of the Corporations Act 2001 into line with modern communication methods,” Mr Xenophon said.

 

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