Leadership required to restore trust

True leadership is needed from professional organisations to repair the erosion of trust in the accounting profession, the head of an industry body has said.

Addressing the 2017 Institute of Public Accountants (IPA) National Congress on the Gold Coast last week, IPA chief executive Andrew Conway said: “The profession as we know has always occupied a position of trust, always. But what we’ve seen in the last 12 months is that being questioned.

“So our challenge is what do we need to do to try and rebuild, retake the ground, and actually make sure we’re on a solid footing from a policy point of view to project the very positive things the profession is doing.”

According to Conway, the role of stewardship and the ability to demonstrate strong leadership have never been more important to address the falling level of trust in the accounting profession.

“In our view as a profession collectively, and professional bodies included, we need to step up and we need to speak up because there are things taking place in our profession and in our sphere of influence that have been lost in terms of the focus of the profession in the last 12 to 18 months,” he said.

To that end, the IPA is proposing the return to a more collaborative effort from the various accounting bodies in Australia.

“We know that we are stronger when we speak with a collective voice,” Conway said.

“When you get a submission from a group of bodies saying the same thing, it is far more powerful than disparate voices.

“So we think it’s time to re-establish the joint accounting bodies.

“It’s a committee and it was formed a number of years ago comprising the presidents and CEOs of the three professional bodies [IPA, CPA Australia and Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand].”

Conway recognised it was a good forum to discuss the issues facing the accounting profession on a regular basis and with the last meeting being in 2012, the time was right to revisit the strategy now.

“The IPA is willing to step up and take a leadership role. We will speak to the other bodies, set a date, and say ‘let’s go, it’s time to take it on and re-establish it’,” he said.

“Because there is so much going on, from taxation reform to regulatory burdens, financial services and a whole range of things like digitisation and cybersecurity, we need a collective voice and it needs to be heard by government.

“We can’t keep having these disparate voices.”

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