Thursday, May 18, 2006

Misrepresentation and Shabbiness

Today's Independent reports that the qualifications of the president-elect of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales, Graham Durgan, were misrepresented on his company's website.

Seemingly Durgan was being passed off, on the Emile Woolf International College website (a company which he owns 60% of), as having both LLB and FCA qualifications.

The only trouble is, according the The Independent, he is neither a bachelor of law nor a fellow of the ICAEW. He is in fact a bachelor of sciences, and an associate of the ICAEW.

I recall Durgan teaching me at BPP, back in the 1980's (he was very good), and do not understand why he is not an FCA; given that if you keep up your CPD etc, you become one after a defined period of time should you choose to apply.

This news comes hot on the heels of the report in yesterday's Independent that revealed that Durgan's company has been named as the "recommended supplier" of training, for the newly won ICAEW contracts to provide training to Russia and China.

It is reported that this could generate contracts worth £200,000 a year to EWI.

Not surprisingly the Independent notes that Durgan's senior role within the institute and EWI has fuelled concerns over potential conflict of interest.

The Independent quotes one member of the profession as saying:

"It's a bit shabby that he was allowed to pitch. If you want to be a commercial business, then don't be president...It's a bit grubby."

Durgan's spokesman is quoted as saying:

"During his deputy presidency, Graham has stepped away from any commercial decisions by the institute that could benefit his firms. During his presidency, he will play no active executive role in his businesses."

An ICAEW spokesman is quoted:

"Throughout the process, the deputy president declared a financial interest in EWI which had been approached to do the work. He was not involved in any way in the evaluation process."

They don't get it do they?

It is not just a question of being independent, it is a question of being seen to be independent.

That is drummed into you from day one of your training contract, it is lamentable that the ICAEW who spend so much time lecturing others about ethics and independence cannot practice what they preach.

The story gets worse, the ICAEW are reported to have described the agreements with EWI as "non-exclusive". Yet this is contradicted by CEO Eric Anstee, who is quoted in the Independent as saying:

"We do not envisage working with further training firms until the volume of students in each location builds".

Indeed, as if to rub further salt into the wounds, ATC International told the Independent that it was not asked by the ICAEW to pitch for its contract for Russia.

Correct me if I am wrong, but based on my experience running fraud investigations, audit departments and companies, open tendering is the bedrock of an ethical and well run business. This is another area that the ICAEW is fond to lecture the world on, yet fails to practice what it preaches.

It now seems that the ICAEW has realised that is has got itself embroiled in yet another mess, that could have been so easily avoided. They have told the media that no agreements with EWI have been signed, and that a committee of past presidents will look into the selection process and will report in the next few days.

The phrase "shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted", springs to mind.

I assume that, depending on the level of outcry and damage to the brand that this sorry little tale produces, there will be some form of political fudge; ie Durgan will step aside, or the contract will be awarded to another supplier.

Too little, too late.

The damage has been done.

We should never have been placed in this position in the first place. The ICAEW claims that it is run by professionals, with industry and business experience. However, the leadership have succeeded yet again in damaging the brand value of our qualification.

This dismal story is another addition to the sorry tally of evidence, that has been building up over the past few months, that shows that the executive and council of the ICAEW are unfit to lead the ICAEW viz:
  • The leadership of the ICAEW were trounced for trying to bully us into merging with CIPFA.

  • Using the services of Media Strategy, a PR company that breached the Code of Practice of the Association of Professional Political Consultants which resigned its membership of that body rather than face an investigation.

  • Damaging the ICAEW's reputation by delaying the introduction of the new syllabus, and most importantly the ethics module, for 2006.

  • Wasting our money on a futile MORI poll asking us why we voted against the merger, don't they read or listen?

  • Angering and alienating accountants around the world by trying to push through a name change, that ended up being blocked by the Privy Council.
Individually these points are damning enough, yet put together they speak volumes about the quality of leadership at the helm of the ICAEW.

I ask the following of the membership:
  • When will we be rid of this shambolic leadership?

  • When will the ICAEW learn that it is here to serve the interests of the membership, not the other way around?

  • When will that Victorian anachronistic structure known as Council be removed from office?
Failure to address these issues will see the end of the ICAEW as a legitimate force, and respected brand, within the profession.

I don't want to see that happen, neither do the rest of the membership. The time for the membership to take control of the ICAEW is now.

I have voted against all of the proposals put forward by the ICAEW for the forthcoming AGM, as a protest about the way the ICAEW is being led.

I would recommend that, in order to send a clear signal to the leadership that we want change, others do the same.

If you cannot bring yourself to vote against all of the resolutions, then at least vote against the subscription rise (since it will only be wasted on yet another merger campaign next year), and the awarding of honourary FCA's (we are not a university).

The time for action is now.


  1. The Institute of Professional Financial Managers was not asked to pitch. We have a good reputation for courses in Eastern Europe and our own website in Russian.

    Your comments are pretty damning but all spot on.

  2. Piggng disdrace Ken - I'm with you 100% on this. Well done for exposing the factrs on this. Pity certain MSMS titles can't see this

  3. disgrace :) (New glasses arrive soon)

  4. The Times, Accoutancy Age and Accountancy have crawled all over this site in the last 3 days (since I wrote the article).

    It will be interesting to see if the two journals of the profession write anything other than the official "ICAEW line" on this.

    I suspect that the majority of our colleagues in the ICAEW are blissfully unaware of this issue.