Friday, June 30, 2006

Anstee Steps Down

Even the most glittering and majestic of reigns must come to an end.

The above sentiment will doubtless be disseminated by the ICAEW executive as they seek to put a positive spin on the departure "leaked" yesterday, and due to be formally announced today, of Eric Anstee the first ever CEO of the ICAEW.

Anstee presided over the latest (sixth in 35 years) failed merger attempt of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales. The timing of the announcement is hardly propitious, coming as it does in the middle of the ICAEW Council Conference which is trying to clear up the mess resulting from the Durgan Debacle.

I do not intend to dwell on Anstee's triumphs and failures; nor indeed do I intend to worry about whether he resigned, retired or was sacked.

However, I would note that Anstee, earlier this year, indicated that he would be in favour of trying to place a merger vote before the membership again. It will be interesting to see if his departure marks the death knell for any future foolish time consuming and money wasting merger attempts.

It should not be forgotten that the last attempt cost us £1.4M, plus untold damage to our brand value.

The departure of Anstee does not let the ICAEW off the hook, with regard to its operations and structure:

  • Council needs to be cut from its current absurd level of 90 plus, to a more manageable and effective size of around 6-12 people

  • The questions raised earlier on this site, in relation to the Durgan Debacle need to be addressed openly

  • The selection of the next CEO will be "interesting", both in terms of who applies and who is finally selected by the ICAEW

  • It should also be noted that Anstee intends to stay on his role, until a successor is found. It will be interesting to see if any new "initiatives" are announced during this period
Finally, as a minor matter of curiosity, it would be interesting to know how/why the story about Anstee leaving was leaked a day early and by whom. It is worth noting that the "leak" was well timed enough to enable Accountancy Age to put together several reports on the matter, in time for publication early this morning.

It should also be noted, that the timing and professionalism (Accountancy Age were well primed with several articles and a podcast-which would have taken 24 hours to arrange) of the "leak" means that Council's attention will be distracted from discussing/focusing too hard on the Durgan Debacle.

Who would gain from that?

Maybe though, I am just too cynical?

The future direction of the ICAEW will be decided over the coming months, it will be a very exciting period indeed. I will be following developments very closely.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

An Invitation

Council members are invited to post here, or email me directly, any news items relating to the current ICAEW Council Conference.

I regard the attitude of the ICAEW, as quoted by Accountancy Age, re questions over the Durgan Debacle as being a "private matter for council" as being contemptible.

I offer those members of council, who actually respect the membership, an opportunity to tell the membership what is really going on in their ICAEW. I will maintain your anonymity should you so wish.

The days of deals being done in smoke filled rooms are over.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Durgan To Stand?

There are rumours emanating from the ICAEW bunker that indicate that Graham Durgan may be considering "re-accepting" the presidency.

Friday, June 16, 2006

The Unanswered Questions

The Durgan debacle refuses to die down, and there are rumours emanating from the ICAEW bunker relating to the how the Independent heard about the matter in the first place.

The post Durgan "clean up" by the ICAEW, in itself, has raised a number of questions which need to be answered:
  • Why was Council (and apparently also the Board) not informed of the impending problem sooner? These contracts had been under negotiation for several months not mere days.

  • Was it just coincidence that the issue was raised at the very last Council meeting before the new President took office? Earlier notification might have enabled the matter to be resolved without the need for Graham to stand down.

  • The Independent article was virtually word-for-word what the Chief Executive said to Council on 3 May 2006. Any leak would, therefore, appear to be either internal or a Council member with perfect memory.

  • Why is it necessary to have a single "preferred supplier" status, why not simply a quality threshold (a "kitemark") with anyone passing it awarded appropriate status? Had EWI been one of two or more such suppliers, there would have been no need for Graham to stand down. Again, a coincidence?

  • Council opted for the Group of Past-presidents to look into the issue rather than commissioning an independent, external audit. Council expected the Group to report back rather than just providing an oral comment. An external auditor would, of course, have provided a full written account of the issues. Perhaps Council was steered towards the route it chose as this was easier to influence.

  • An internal audit has revealed "some issues" - why hasn't this report been made available to Council?

  • Who overlooked inviting ATC International to bid, and why?

  • The Special Council meeting was called at very short notice and attended by only 41 Council members (out of 96). Why wasn't the date advised to Council members earlier so that they could pencil it in their diaries... just in case a meeting was required. Indeed, were any Council members advised to pencil in the date prior to the official announcement? If so, who was advised, by whom and why?

  • Has this just been a momentous cock-up by a junior member of staff, or a very cleverly orchestrated conspiracy by someone much more senior?

  • Was the leak deliberately designed to bring Durgan down? If so, who leaked the story and why?

  • Why is it left to this site to expose these issues, is it not the role of the professional media to be investigating this?
I look forward to seeing the above questions answered.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

ICAEW To Review Internal Controls

Accountancy Age report that following the Durgan contract fiasco, there will be a review of the internal control procedures relating to how preferred supplier contracts are awarded.

The review will be carried out by Ian Morris, President of the ICAEW.

I have twenty years international experience working in industry, reviewing business controls, advising on best practice (eg purchasing and contract tendering), conducting fraud investigations and implementing codes of ethical conduct.

The ICAEW are more than welcome to contact me if they wish for some impartial, arms length, advice on this matter.

Overwhelming Support?

Quote from yesterday's ICAEW press release:

"Members of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England & Wales have given their overwhelming support to proposals that will enable the Institute, over time, to broaden its portfolio of qualifications for finance professionals in response to market needs.

At a special meeting of members, held on 6th June 2006, over 88% voted in favour of the resolution that enabled the Institute's Council to create new qualifications and schemes for the awarding of diplomas and certificates subject to Privy Council approval

The 88% does seem to be "overwhelming"; until you realise that for each of the special resolutions less than 20000 members (16%), out of approximately 128000, voted in favour.

I don't know that I would be so keen to trumpet that as "overwhelming" support.

Ian Morris, President of the Institute is quoted:

"The strength of the Institute is its membership and I'm delighted with their support for this year's annual and special meetings.

The vast majority have voted in favour of the resolutions we put forward, a very visible demonstration of support for our strategic direction

I am afraid that I must disagree with the above statement.

The vast majority have not voted, in fact over 80% of the membership have not bothered to vote.

That is not a vote of confidence in the strategic direction of the ICAEW, nor a very visible demonstration of support, but a clear signal of apathy and disengagement.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Deja Vu

I read with interest the letters page in Accountancy Age (1st June 2006 page 14) and noted one particular letter from a Nick Wilson who, aside from referring to the anti merger lobby as being dinosaurs, made reference to "the parochial small minded behaviour of the so called 'leaders' of the Scottish Institute".

Imagine my surprise when turning to the letters page of the June edition of Accountancy (page 22), I see the very same letter (almost identical word for word, albeit slightly longer) from a certain Nick Wilson.

I am guessing that this is the same Nick Wilson who, back in November 2005, wrote to PASS having a go at the Scots in very similar language.


"The Scottish institute seems to be run by some very small-minded, backward parochials...!"

There's that "P" word again!

It has been well reported that the Labour Party encourage their apparatchiks to write to gullible local newspapers, eager for content, extolling the virtues of Labour and slagging off the Tories. This is a form of "low level" media campaigning and PR.

However, it is comforting to know that Accountancy and Accountancy Age would not be gullible enough to fall for such blatant media manipulation by apparatchiks of the ICAEW.

Friday, June 02, 2006

A Confused Message

There seems to be some confusion as regards the tendering process used by the ICAEW, in relation to the Russian and Chinese training contracts that caused the implosion of Graham Durgan's bid to become President and the ongoing media relations debacle.

Accountancy (June 2006 page 5) state:

"The ICAEW says the work was awarded on an 'open tender' basis..."

Yet an article (Misrepresentation and Shabbiness) was posted on this site (18 May), which Accountancy read, that stated:

"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

Additionally, Dr Jeff Wooller, wrote in the comment section:

"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."

So, is that open tendering or not? It doesn't sound very open to me.

I have sent this to Accountancy asking them to clarify their report.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Durgan Not to Stand - Confirmed

The Independent confirm's that Graham Durgan will be stepping aside as President of the ICAEW, as noted here yesterday.

The article notes that the ICAEW maintain that Durgan's interest in EWI, the training company awarded the Chinese and Russian contracts, were openly declared throughout the tender process.

However, what the ICAEW failed to do was hold an open tendering process allowing all companies to apply for the contracts.

That is why they are in this mess. Unfortunately, the ICAEW don't see it this way and are blaming the press for this.