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The Institute’s regulatory and disciplinary function is central to maintaining trust and integrity in who we are and what we do. The regulatory landscape faced by the profession has changed beyond recognition over the last two decades. For Chartered Accountants Ireland, this landscape is made even more complex by the fact that we have regulatory obligations in two jurisdictions, and it is likely that one of those will soon be outside the European Union (EU).  While much of the discourse around regulation of the profession in recent years has focused on implementation in Ireland and the UK of the EU audit reform package, remember also that the Institute’s regulatory functions extend beyond statutory audit to insolvency, investment business, anti-money laundering supervision and ATOL licensing (UK travel agents) – all of which is supervised by a variety of State agencies. And this is all underpinned by various regulations of our own, compliance with which goes hand-in-hand with being a Chartered Accountant. Our regulatory stakeholders in Ireland include the Irish Auditing and Accounting Supervisory Authority (IAASA), the Department of Justice, Equality and Reform, and the Central Bank. In the UK, the Financial Reporting Council (FRC), Financial Conduct Authority, the Insolvency Services (one in Great Britain and one in Northern Ireland) and HM Treasury – all providing State oversight or supervision of the Institute’s exercise of its regulatory obligations. More recently, the role accountants in practice can play in the prevention of money laundering has come under particular scrutiny with EU legislation imposing specific requirements for external accountants/auditors to have in place appropriate measures (client due diligence and so on) to mitigate money-laundering risks. In Ireland and the UK, legislation requires the professional bodies to supervise compliance with this regime. Indeed, in the UK there is likely to be established shortly a State agency – the Office for Professional Body Anti-Money Laundering Supervision (OPBAS) – whose role will be to oversee how the accountancy and other professional bodies supervise their members’ AML compliance. The regulatory field is truly a crowded place. All such regulators have similar but different supervisory requirements and needs; all requiring to some extent regulatory plans, periodic reporting, appropriate processes and procedures. It is not surprising, therefore, that over the last quarter of a century, Institute members and practitioners have witnessed the evolution of a suite of bye-laws and regulations necessary to allow the Institute to carry out these regulatory functions. To say that Chartered Accountants work with a complex regulatory framework is an understatement. Why do this at all? A look back at Institute’s Royal Charter provides an insight into the thinking behind what it means to be a Chartered Accountant. This states that the Institute exists to ensure that there are professional accountants with the integrity, skills, expertise and judgement necessary to support the economy and society. It describes the tasks of the then “public accountant” as “difficult” and “important”, requiring observance of “strict rules” of conduct as a condition of membership. The various rules and regulations now applicable to Institute members are of course unrecognisable when compared to what existed some 128 years ago. Nevertheless, the essence of the message these rules conveyed is equally relevant to today’s Chartered Accountant. Our new president, Shauna Greely, recently captured this succinctly: “Integrity and ethics are right at the core of what it means to be Chartered Accountants”. Maintaining trust and confidence in our profession and having regard to the public interest remain key components of the Institute’s mission. Strategy 2020 reaffirmed our commitment in this regard, stating that a key element of the Institute’s aim is to maintain our role as regulator of all Chartered Accountants, so public confidence in the profession is maintained and enhanced. Our commitment to maintain the regulation of our members as Chartered Accountants holds true in the context of the transfer of the regulation of PIE (Public Interest Entities) auditors to IAASA. It is a principle that in the first instance, regulation should be supportive of members in their day-to-day professional lives, backed with stringent but appropriate discipline. In practical terms, the Institute’s regulation and disciplinary functions are central to providing assurance to members and other stakeholders equally that the Institute takes this seriously. The frameworks governing how these functions are delivered, however, have changed significantly over the years. We are no longer a self-regulating body which supervises the performance of many of the core activities traditionally performed by Chartered Accountants such as statutory audit work, investment business services or UK insolvency work. The Institute’s own regulatory obligations in these areas is overseen by the above-referenced State agencies with significant powers to review, instruct, investigate and sanction professional accountancy bodies. In practical terms, this means that the Institute is regularly reviewed/inspected by such agencies; reports of findings are issued; and recommendations made are followed up to ensure implementation – in many respects, such a process will be familiar to many practitioners. A key difference is that the Institute could possibly be subjected to a number of different reviews/inspections, findings and closing meetings annually. Such change in the regulatory landscape governing our profession is an essential element in maintaining confidence in what we do; the Institute has long acknowledged this. For example, the recent transfer of responsibility to IAASA for the supervision and inspection of audits of so-called public interest entities (PIEs) has been long supported by the Institute as a critical element in reaffirming confidence in statutory audit. To answer the “Why do it?” question above, I do believe that the Institute continues to be well-placed to play an important role in the delivery of regulation and discipline. Current arrangements allow members in practice, in particular, to carry on a range of activities (those regulated by statute) that would otherwise require them to be regulated/supervised separately by a number of different State regulators whereas, at present, in this regard the Institute provides a single point of reference and regulation. Change and challenge Undoubtedly, the most significant change to the Institute’s regulatory framework has resulted from the transposition in Ireland and the UK of the EU’s statutory audit reform package, which took effect from the middle of last year, with Ireland due to complete certain aspects of the transposition later this year via a Companies (Statutory Audits) Act. In transposing this legislation, the UK and Ireland could have put the professional bodies out of the audit regulation business, full stop! Instead, both jurisdictions have opted to avail of a “delegation approach” which permits State competent authorities (IAASA and the FRC) to delegate certain audit regulatory activities back to the professional accountancy bodies, but subject to specific terms and conditions. This regime is now live in the UK between the FRC and the recognised bodies and is currently being discussed in Ireland between IAASA and the recognised accountancy bodies (RABs). In Ireland, while the general consensus may have been that these new regimes will actually mean a certain degree of ‘de-risking’ by the accountancy bodies, given that IAASA has now assumed responsibility for supervision of PIE audits, there are aspects of the current legislative proposals, particularly relating to the supervision and investigation of auditors from other EEA states, which will require further scrutiny. It is also proposed that the RABs will retain responsibility for investigating complaints concerning PIE audits which have not arisen as a result of an IAASA inspection (nobody said this was simple!) Ultimately, as with any scenario where the Institute is being asked to assume regulatory responsibilities, whether by statute or otherwise, Council of the Institute decides on whether these delegation terms and conditions are acceptable, taking account of costs, resource needs, risks to the Institute and advantages/disadvantages to members and firms. The Institute has already signed up to a similar delegation structure in the UK. And assuming it does likewise in Ireland (with IAASA), we embark on a new relationship with our two key regulators in terms of the supervision of statutory audit. And while the scope of responsibilities of IAASA and the FRC differ somewhat, the new regimes provide a platform that will also require positive relationships to deliver on a shared agenda of promoting confidence in the profession, albeit acknowledging the need for a certain degree of healthy tension that, by necessity, must exist between all concerned. The Institute, of course, has an ongoing imperative to deliver its regulatory functions in a manner that is efficient and fair. I would add to that ‘proportionate’ and ‘balanced’. An ongoing challenge for regulators, I believe, is to achieve an approach to regulation which, as well as assuring compliance with relevant regulatory and professional requirements, also adds value and encourages and recognises high standards and quality. Practitioners, in particular, already face significant challenges in serving the needs of clients. So where we can provide assistance in addressing the requirements of what often seem difficult and complex professional requirements, we should. Members in business too are obviously subject to the Institute’s range of bye-law and regulatory requirements, particularly with regard to Continuing Professional Development (CPD). Note that while the quantum of CPD is important (whether input or output-based), a popular misconception that exists is that this must be primarily in core areas such as financial reporting. What is important is that CPD undertaken is relevant to the day job, be that marketing, compliance, HR, IT and so on. CPD in so-called softer skills also constitutes relevant CPD. Of course, where there is alleged misconduct, the Institute is obliged to ensure that this is dealt with in accordance with appropriate processes and procedures. Undoubtedly, the adversarial nature of a regulatory or disciplinary process can be difficult for all parties involved – and it is! The only certainty with regard to the regulatory environment in which the profession operates is that it will continue to change. Revised audit exemption thresholds introduced finally by the Companies (Accounting) Act, 2017 in Ireland may well result in more firms deciding that they no longer require an audit licence. Indeed, where firms are not providing services requiring any form of statutory oversight by the Institute, the need for continued membership may be questioned given there continues to be an inequitable regime in Ireland and the UK on the recognition of the term “accountant” or the provision of accountancy services (although there would continue to exist a requirement for supervision under AML legislation). Recognition of the term “accountant” was one issue raised recently at a meeting between the Institute president and Minister Mitchell-O’Connor. In Ireland and the UK, we may see amendments to the investment business licencing regimes as a result of transposition of the EU Insurance Distribution Directive, due for transposition next year. We can also expect further enhancements to AML requirements. So it’s not just about statutory audit. The Institute’s  regulatory/disciplinary function is one component of the Institute’s key strategic priority of promoting and maintaining trust and integrity in who we are and what we do. As identified in Strategy 2020, our underlying challenge is to perform our regulatory responsibilities in a manner that has the confidence of external stakeholders and our members. Anything else? Did someone mention Brexit? Aidan Lambe FCA is Director of Professional Standards at Chartered Accountants Ireland.

Jun 01, 2017

Ireland’s largest professional accountancy body, Chartered Accountants Ireland has regarded signs of a more inclusive consensus approach to UK Brexit negotiations as a ‘chink of light’ that Ireland and Irish business voices should seize upon with guarded optimism. The comments were made by Chartered Accountants Ireland president Shauna Greely at a major Brexit briefing in Dublin this evening (Tues 20 June) co-hosted by the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Scotland and attended by over 130 Institute members and guests. Ms Greely said:  “In assessing the consequences of Brexit, the impact on Northern Ireland and the ongoing success of the Peace Process must be at the top of the agenda. As an all-island body, Chartered Accountants Ireland is ideally positioned to listen to concerns related to the peace dividend and cross-border trade concerns. It is reassuring that negotiators on all sides have already prioritised the preservation of peace on this island. This gives us grounds for optimism. “And we remain optimistic on two other fronts.  We are hopeful that as the politicians on all sides work through the practical realities of Brexit negotiations that sensible and practical solutions can be found which will minimise the disruption to citizens and businesses alike. We are even more confident that business will identify solutions to the challenges of Brexit.  Dire predictions of job losses of 40,000 or more in Ireland following Brexit do not reflect the capacity of Irish business to change and adapt to new circumstances. We will not sit quietly and wait for the bad things to happen. The event was chaired by RTE commentator and presenter Audrey Carville and other speakers included Brian Keegan, Director of Taxation and Public Policy at Chartered Accountants Ireland. Mr Mike McKeon, chair of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Scotland’s Brexit Advisory Group, presented the Scottish perspective on the UK referendum result, the UK's various economic, legal and demographic positions, and how the recent election result will frame potential outcomes. He said: “Brexit is a major event for the UK that will potentially and perhaps substantially change the relationships it has with many countries around the world. It is therefore right that the biggest and leading accountancy bodies in Ireland and Scotland should debate this issue which is important to both our members and their native countries.” Mr Eoin O’Shea BL, FCA, a frequent commentator on all aspects of Brexit, spoke about the potential impact of the Article 50 referendum on trade, customs, VAT, and the agriculture sector in particular. He said: "There are two crucial outcomes that must be sought from the Brexit process for the Irish economy. These are tariff-free sales of agricultural products and minimising customs red tape. Large tariffs on agriculture would decimate exports of Irish agricultural products to our biggest trading partner. A customs regime full of red tape between partners formerly in a customs union makes no administrative sense." ENDS Reference: Brian Keegan, Director of Public Policy and Taxation, E: brian.keegan@charteredaccountants.ie;, or Bryan Rankin, Marketing Manager, T: +353 1 637 7268, M: 087 2047905, E: bryan.rankin@charteredaccountants.ie Note to editors: Press photos of this evening’s event will be issued to picture desks and online news outlets from Iain White Photography, M: 087 239 3563 Chartered Accountants Ireland is Ireland's largest and longest established professional body of accountants founded in 1888. The Institute currently represents 25,500 members around the world, including over 4,000 members in Northern Ireland.

Jun 21, 2017

Irish Chartered Accountants discussed the role of the profession in supporting the UN Global Goals in London this week, as part of a Chartered Accountants Worldwide (CAW) event.  Welcoming participants to the debate, Institute CEO and CAW Chairman Pat Costello gave an overview of the work that CAW does bringing together the 11 leading Chartered bodies from around the world. In 2015 the 193 members of the United Nations General Assembly formally adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. This included 17 Global Goals for Sustainable Development with   the principle that no one will be left behind.  The Goals were developed over two years by an open working group, with representatives from over 70 countries. The consultation on the Goals was the largest to date in the UN’s history and reached over 8 million individuals. The vision the Goals paint of the world we want by 2030 is hugely ambitious and very different from the world we know today.  The Event Michael Izza ICAEW, CEO addressed the group on the goals and highlighted how they are the vision of what the world wants by 2030. The goals are framed by values of fairness, justice and inclusivity. The vision is one of economic prosperity, which speaks to ICAEW's vision of a world of strong economies. Richard Spencer and Francesca Sharp of ICAEW’s sustainability team facilitated the session and introduced the UN Global Goals and why they matter for the accountancy profession. The audience of over 80 Chartered Accountants were split into groups of 8 and each group  was asked to discuss which of the Goals they found most related to them personally and then the accountancy profession, followed by a discussion on how they are all connected. Some tables focused on economic growth, while others felt quality education should be the focus for the profession. The key takeaway question was “How can we as CAW reach more accountants and therefore more businesses to start embedding the Goals?” Photos of the event are available at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/charteredww/albums/72157682301718530 So what’s the role for the accountancy profession? The profession has a history of coming together to serve the public interest by creating public goods in the form of common bases of measurement, reporting and assurance. As countries measure progress on the goals statistically, and business measures progress using accounting tools, the accountancy profession will have a substantial role in aligning these systems of measurement. Understanding the Goals’ interconnectivity and measuring progress will require huge amounts of data which will need to be trusted. The profession is at the forefront of applying new technology in information gathering, processing and assuring. Strong local institutions, including those that make up the accountancy profession will be essential to achieve the goals. Find out more information at: http://charteredaccountantsworldwide.com/globalgoals/ 

May 25, 2017

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