Thursday, September 22, 2011

ICAEW Awarded Carbon Trust Standard

ICAEW has been awarded the Carbon Trust Standard, and is the first professional accountancy body to achieve this certification.

"The Carbon Trust standard was achieved following a programme of recording, measuring, and managing ICAEW’s carbon emissions each year between April 2008 – March 2011.

As part of our programme ICAEW installed new lighting systems, controlled by movement sensors, developed a system of switching off plant and equipment during non-operational hours and installed energy efficient water cooling equipment.  These changes on both ICAEW sites in the City of London and in Milton Keynes ensured the right carbon outputs for certification."

I trust that it was time and money well spent, as the Taxpayers' Alliance was of the view last year that the Carbon Trust should be shut down; as their letter (29 September 2010) to Chris Hune clearly states:

"Dear Mr. Huhne,

It has been reported that the Carbon Trust is under review and could be abolished. At the TaxPayers’ Alliance, we’ve done a lot of work on how to deliver spending cuts. Your department needs to find considerable savings and we feel that around £100 million that could be saved by abolishing the Carbon Trust should be one of them for a number of reasons.

The Carbon Trust doesn’t address a genuine market failure. If large businesses can genuinely save money by cutting their energy use, then they have an incentive to do so. Particularly with other policies – such as the Renewables Obligation – increasing energy prices and the introduction of the Carbon Reduction Commitment. If they need external advice to achieve that result, they can pay for it instead of taking money from ordinary taxpayers.

The quality of their advice is suspect. The Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead, recognised as a pioneer for their energy saving work, felt that the advice they received was not reliable. The minutes of their Sustainability Panel record that:

“The Chairman went onto explain that he felt the Council had been sold a wonderful idea but that only a third of the predictions were going to occur which he felt boiled down to the original plan being wildly optimistic.”

The organisation is unaccountable and inscrutable. As the Freedom of Information Act does not apply to the Carbon Trust, taxpayers cannot find out how their money is spent. Staff remuneration is high. Their Chief Executive Tom Delay received remuneration of £237,797 in 2008-09. It is difficult to tell how many staff at the organisation receive high pay thanks to its complicated structure.

Three executive partners who manage investment funds for the Carbon Trust at the organisation’s investment management arm CT Investment Partners LLP (Peter Linthwaite, Jonathan Bryers and Adam Workman) appear to be very generously compensated. They paid £50,000 initially for their share in CT Investment Partners LLP and – between the three of them – are now getting £380,000
a year in profit in fees from the Carbon Trust. They work out of the same office and the National Audit Office has raised concerns at potential conflicts of interest, saying that there “is a risk that CAT Investment Partners staff could influence publicly funded research and development or incubator support for emerging businesses that they, in time, may back by way of investment and thus from which they may earn carried interest”.

The Carbon Trust has even expanded to other countries, as if it were a multinational company, through its Carbon Trust International programme. In August 2009 they were advertising for a Head of Carbon Trust USA position. They are working to promote the creation of similar organisations in other countries. This is clearly an inappropriate use of British taxpayers’ money.

The Carbon Trust is therefore subject to considerable mission creep, its main work does not address an actual market failure, it is extremely generous in how it remunerates its staff and fails to match up to the principles of transparency and accountability articulated by the Government. While it is possible to conceive of reforms that might improve the organisation, the best way of securing value for taxpayers is to abolish it outright.

Yours sincerely,

Matthew Sinclair
TaxPayers’ Alliance

Here's what the FCAblog thinks of this absurd waste of time and money:

"Er, wtf mates? Could you maybe go for a Plain English Standard next time, because that's the biggest load of management-speak cobblers I've ever read. "Quantify our footprint"? "Benchmark our performance"? This is obfuscation of the highest order.

If you really want to know what this all means, there's some documentation over at the Carbon Trust's website, including the full standard. Basically, ICAEW is using less carbon than it was in 2008. But carbon measurement is a curious science. For example, the graph of carbon emissions by country says that China is the 'worst' emitter. Yet most of China's emissions relate to production of goods which are then consumed elsewhere in the world. So while Brits throw lots of shit away, China gets the blame for it, carbon-wise. And the other big scam is carbon offsets, where you pay someone who might pollute to not pollute, so that you can instead. It's the discredited system of indulgences, reinvented for the 21st century.

Of course, saving money is A Good Thing. So why not just say that that's what they're doing - they're turning lights and the air conditioning off at Moorgate Place because it means the subscription won't have to go up as much next year? I'm sure members would love that. 

One can only hope that more will be made clear when ICAEW publishes its annual review in spring next year. In the mean time, if you want to undertake a futile gesture, you can always 'vote down' the article on ICAEW's website. Go on, you know you want to..."

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Diluting The Brand Via The Back Door

The ICAEW has announced plans to work more closely with the Institute of Certified Accountants of Kenya (ICPAK) and has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU).

The MoU enables qualified ICPAK members to apply for ICAEW membership subject to certain requirements, which include passing ICAEW’s Advanced Stage examinations and attaining a period of work experience with an ICAEW Authorised Training Employer.

ICAEW members can apply for ICPAK membership subject to passing Kenya tax and law papers delivered by Kenya Accountants and Secretaries National Board.

It seems that the ICAEW is intent on growth by numbers, irrespective of the fact that the method chosen dilutes the brand.

Friday, September 16, 2011

HMRC Service Delivery - The Coal Face

I have asked for views from the coal face (HMRC staff) as to the likelihood of the Joint Statement on Service Levels achieving anything.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

HMRC Service Delivery

Michael Izza (CEO of the ICAEW) has expressed hope that HMRC's commitment (yet another in a series of promises, previous ones having been broken) to improving its service levels will actually come to fruition this time.

He writes:

"HMRC has made similar promises in the past to tackle service issues yet have failed to deliver. 

I believe this time will be different. 

Thanks in no small part to the role played by our Tax Faculty and in particular, Paul Aplin, chair of its technical committee, we now have a partnership with HMRC and a very public commitment from the very top to a way forward which will help turn things around."

I don't discredit Michael for his optimism.

However, I do not share it.

Regular readers of my site can attest to the fact that HMRC is in fact heading for meltdown, and will not be in a position to make good on its promises.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Topless Accounting

Washington State accounting firm Schuyler, Fishbein and Kleinwort have decided to market their business by having their female accountants give clients topless sessions for an extra $50 per hour plus tips.

That is 50% higher than normal hourly rate of $100, seemingly some clients have been willing to pay for the extra service.

I can't see the ICAEW endorsing that approach to marketing here.

Monday, September 12, 2011

ICAEW News Makeover

ICAEW News (nee "Stop The Merger") has been given a much needed makeover.