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CA ANZ fails to deliver for smaller firms: ChangeGPS

Business

The accounting bodies look weak beside the representative organisations of other professions, says Queensland software outfit.

By Miranda Brownlee 11 minute read

*** UPDATED*** The bodies representing accountants “appear weak” compared to other professional associations and fall short when it comes to achieving the right outcomes for smaller firms, ChangeGPS chief executive David Boyar says.

Speaking on a webinar this week, Mr Boyar and ChangeGPS founder Tim Munro said a proposed change to the CA ANZ bylaws was just the latest example of the “body advocating for the client first, and the accountant second”.

CA ANZ is encouraging members to vote in favour of a change that would allow its Disciplinary Tribunal to order the refund or waiver of fees paid by a complainant.

The resolution is one of the nine resolutions that will be voted on by members which will implement recommendations from the Professional Conduct Review if approved. Member voting closes at the end of next week.

CA ANZ has outlined to members that orders to waive or refund fees would only occur where the independent Professional Conduct Committee or Tribunal have found a breach of the compliance obligations relating to billing.

“At the PCC level, the order is made with the member’s consent,” it said.

“We do not investigate fee disputes where there has been no breach of billing requirements.”

CA ANZ stated that the additional possible sanction was an important step towards “safeguarding the integrity and reputation of the profession and that members whose billing practices are compliant do not need to be concerned”.

It also noted that in circumstances in which fee waivers or refunds have been ordered in New Zealand, where these rules already apply, are where there has been a breach of the Code of Ethics or standards.

"For example, a breach of the fundamental principle of professional behaviour required by the Code of Ethics. In practice this has been triggered by, for example, retaliatory billing/ billing for work not performed at all or outside the scope of the agreed engagement / grossly disproportionate," it said.

CA ANZ said it has only been ordered ten times in total during the past nine years it has applied in New Zealand.

Mr Boyar said the proposed change had the potential to cause substantial harm to members in small practices who had fewer resources to defend claims made against them.

He said more attention needed to be given to members operating in smaller firms in the development of bylaws and policies, with the professional body failing to tailor its services to members based on the size of the firm.

“CA ANZ seems incapable of separating their customer base between the majority of their members comprising small to medium practices and their biggest four customers,” he said.

Mr Boyar said CA ANZ should tailor its bylaws for firms based on size or corporate structure.

“I don’t understand why you can’t separate your operating business to deliver services to different types of customers. CA has a near $1 million chief executive. I would expect this to be within the capability of someone at that level,” he said.

“I’m not suggesting the CEO shouldn’t receive that amount of money but I would expect better outcomes for all customers for somebody that is at that level.”

Mr Munro said many accountants in general felt their professional bodies had failed to deliver great value or great decisions.

He said there was a stark difference between the experience of accountants with their professional bodies and that of other professions such as pharmacists, doctors and lawyers.

“With those professional bodies it’s all about the pharmacists, the doctors, the lawyers [or whoever they’re representing] and yet when it comes to accountants it’s almost like they’re doing whatever they can to make your life more difficult,” he said.

“Whenever anything is changed from a government perspective, we never see positive results from the bodies, certainly not recently. They say they negotiate on our behalf but honestly, I just see our lives getting harder and harder all the time and more work that needs to be done.”

“We now have to identify our clients and know them and pay money to identify them all properly and we’re in trouble if we haven’t done that. We’ve got all the new changes with adding clients to the portal. How much extra red tape has been put on us? It seems the accounting professionals don’t really want to go hard against the government.”

Mr Boyar acknowledged that CA ANZ, along with other accounting bodies, was very active in making submissions to the government on tax changes.

“CA will also very proudly say that they were at the National Skills Summit. When you open the annual report, that’s the first thing you’ll see, is the photo of the CA CEO with Anthony Albanese at the Skills Summit. That is visually what they want to project,” said Mr Boyar.

“However, when I see what other industry bodies and unions do for their members, we just look so weak. I don’t think the Department of Treasury ever thinks for a second, ‘We should just check with CA first to see what the impact is gonna be on the average member before we make this rule’.”

“But it happens in the construction industry all the time.”

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