Governing in the public interest: the accountability of ICAEW

Smith, Susan and Khadaroo, Iqbal (2018) Governing in the public interest: the accountability of ICAEW. In: Centre for Not-for-profit and Public-sector Research Conference on Accounting for the Public Sector at a Time of Crisis, 17-18 January 2018, Queen’s University Belfast.

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This study examines how and to what ends the ICAEW (Institute of Chartered Accountants England and Wales) is governed, to shed light on the extent to which the accounting profession is governed in the public interest. It draws on the literature examining the accountability of the accounting profession to provide a framework for grounding discussion of the extent to which ICAEW is governed in the public interest.

This research is based upon a case study of ICAEW, which is a professional accountancy body incorporated by means of a Royal Charter. We interviewed members of the governing Council and used data from published secondary sources to determine the extent to which explicit consideration of the public interest is taken within the ICAEW strategic decision making structure.

Professional bodies are accountable to the public interest at multiple levels, however external recourse to the public interest is problematic and typically advanced through legislation e.g. the Apprenticeship Levy introduced to facilitate greater social mobility. The council members are responsible for making strategic decisions and overseeing their implementation have typically been trained in private sector professional accountancy bodies and such represent the interest of the private sector. The importance of the public sector may not be fully recognised in the composition of the elected ICAEW Council and members working in the public sector tend to be co-opted. As a result within the strategic decision-making body or Council the explicit consideration of the public sector as an important sector for employment of accountants and sale of accounting services may be somewhat limited. At the operational level we find that ICAEW is indeed working to support the public sector through its current crisis by means of a variety of initiatives.

This study contributes to the literature on the accountability of the accounting profession, through its focus on the governance of ICAEW and highlighting the implications of the governance structure on public accountability. We propose a framework to further our understanding of the multiple layers of public interest and link this to the mobilisation of the concept within ICAEW.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Schools and Departments: School of Business, Management and Economics > Business and Management
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HF Commerce > HF5001 Business > HF5601 Accounting. Bookkeeping
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Depositing User: Susan Smith
Date Deposited: 19 Mar 2019 10:33
Last Modified: 19 Mar 2019 10:33
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