Practice Assurance: Practice Assurance - fact or fiction?

The work of accountants is coming under increasing scrutiny and it is becoming more important to inspire confidence, says David Chitty

In December 2001, the ICAEW council approved a proposal to introduce a practice review scheme known as Practice Assurance. The proposal was announced at a time when the work of chartered accountants across the world is finding itself more and more under the microscope; a time at which it is becoming more and more important to promote the chartered accountant brand and to inspire confidence in the work of our members.

Members in practice should not feel that they are being singled out in any way. Other accountancy bodies have their own forms of practice/member review and other professions are introducing appraisal and revalidation of their qualifications too. For example, all doctors will have to demonstrate regularly to the GMC that they are up to date and fit to practise medicine. Revalidation will help conscientious doctors to show that they are giving good medical care, and support them to become even better. It will enable doctors to identify and correct any weaknesses they may have. The institute's Practice Assurance scheme has a similar aim.

Myth and rumour

The introduction of any new initiative brings with it anxieties and fears. These concerns are usually founded on inaccurate information, lack of information, unsatisfactory experiences in the past or a proliferation of myth and rumour. It is for this reason that the institute is actively encouraging all its members to take part in the consultation process and is ensuring that information about the scheme as it evolves is published as widely as possible.

As a member of the council, I should like to take this opportunity to urge you to take part in the five consultation exercises and to attend the Practice Assurance roadshow in your area. If you have any questions relating to the scheme, or if you would like to receive a copy of the booklet, Practice Assurance - your questions answered, please call 01908 546388 or email You may also plan to attend the General Practitioner Panel's conference in Warwick (15-17 September) or the Sole Practitioners' Day (25 October).

Members are eager for the institute to promote the chartered accountant brand, to raise the profile of our members and member firms and to provide competitive advantage. The Practice Assurance scheme will be publicised with a view to achieving these aims. Indeed, Practice Assurance will be an essential plank in the institute's strategy continually to raise standards and to recruit new entrants of the highest calibre.

Here are some facts
  • Practice Assurance is not a 'done deal'. It is merely a proposal at this stage;
  • it is not being designed to 'catch firms out';
  • all members have the opportunity to make their voices heard by participating in five separate consultation exercises and by attending briefing sessions and roadshows in their district societies. Details can be found at; enter your membership number and password and click on the consultation process and/or diary of events;
  • all members will be entitled to vote on changes to the charter and bye-laws which will be needed to bring the scheme into operation;
  • voting will take place at a special meeting on 3 June 2003;
  • the institute will be learning from the experience of other Institutes and professional bodies;
  • Practice Assurance will be based on 'best practice';
  • the institute is aware of the need to keep costs and bureaucracy to a minimum;
  • it is proposed that Practice Assurance visits should be short, focused visits with an advisory dimension;
  • the standards should be rigorous but readily achievable by competent firms;
  • the visit will not be a happy experience in every case, but if the scheme is to have credibility, it must be seen to remedy areas of weakness and to root out incompetence;
  • the institute will support members and firms to meet the requirements of the scheme through the provision of helpsheets, guides and a designated telephone helpline.

David Chitty was elected to council in 2001 and has been an active member of both the Thames Valley and Croydon district societies. He is chairman of the ICAEW Practice Focus.

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