TDUD

Turning Development Upside Down
A book about reforming relief and development

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Chapter 1150 Accountability Deficit

Accounting profession not up to the challenges

Spreading the word

In order to test the hypothesis of the action plan being proposed, I have put elements of the plan into a number of lists that specialize in different aspects of development work. Overwhelmingly, the feedback is positive. The question that most people seem to have relates to the information ssues, and the difficulties of making this work.

For example:
Re: Is there an accountability deficit?
mailto:11iacc@yahoogroups.com
4/22/2003 5:28:50 PM Eastern Daylight Time
Re: Is there an accountability deficit?

Dear Colleagues

I have been very quiet, not because of lack of interest, but lack of time.

Corporate ethics have never been particularly high ... from the early days of the industrial revolution until today. So there should not be too much surprise in the way in which corporate profits have a priority over good works.

And personal greed has also been a human trait from biblical times, so that should not be too much of a surprise either.

What is disappointing, however, is how ineffective the various checks and balances on these two issues have been over the past two decades. The SEC has proved to be a very weak component of the oversight framework, and the CPA world has also dropped the ball. I am particularly disappointed in the accountants. I am a UK trained Chartered Accountant who was training in the 1960s when the dialog about whether or not the Institute of Chartered Accountants should have a Royal Charter or not ... and as I recall the argument ... the CAs should have a Royal Charter because it is accounting professionals and NOT government that should be setting the professional standards for what is "true and fair" in the reporting of corporate results.

But in the USA .... it has been about rules since way before I became a Chartered Accountant ..... rules NOT principles .... so a bad rule giving a "good impression" of corporate performance was allowed by the rule if not by any principle of good accounting. This got out of hand many years ago, but nobody paid attention. In fact it was encouraged ...... more complexity ..... more confusion .... more fees.

And then the investment bank analysts got in on the game as well. Instead of the accounts and the audit being the protector of the investor, there was nobody. The only driver was quick gain, and the bigger and quicker the better. Fee based banking created fortunes for some, at the expense of somebody. These somebodies are the ordinary folk who have lost their retirement savings and their jobs .... and are now having tough times.

I proposed a new framework for accounting and audit some time ago that had some of the characteristics of the ISO system for manufacturing quality assurance .... that was not well received in the accounting world ..... surprise surprise.

And recently I saw another innovative suggestion that I liked particularly well. Simply stated the idea is that the Financial Reports would be "insured". The insurance company would hire and pay for the audit. The company would pay the insurance company a premium for the insurance. The premium would be based on the risk of the company having bad accounts and getting into trouble over them. The insurance company has no interest in the company's "results", just in the quality of the numbers. The company now has to make its accounting systems and numbers so that the insurance company will not raise the premium sky high.

And everywhere I look there are numbers .... development .... politics .... rebuilding Iraq .... but do any of the numbers make sense. Financially, the world is out of control.

But it need not be, and should not be. What is needed is some "independent" and universal accountability system ..... technically possible and well worth while.

Sincerely

Peter Burgess

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March 27, 2016 at 6:54 PM  

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