there's no clear and accepted understanding of what [integrity] means in practice
Which gives little confidence in the progress accountants have made in more than 100 years of their professional existence.
There's worse in the report though. Put simply the document assumes reporting takes place. As the report notes:
This report argues that integrity is important not only in its own right but also because it:
â€šÃ„¢ helps establish trust;
â€šÃ„¢ underpins high quality information that people can rely on;
â€šÃ„¢ enables markets to develop and allocate resources more efficiently;
â€šÃ„¢ delivers value to individuals, organisations and nations by supporting the achievement of desired outcomes; and
â€šÃ„¢ inspires public policy responses when there is a loss of confidence in markets.
I won't argue with that.
But what this does undermine are two things. The first is the long history of accountants fighting every proposed new disclosure asked of companies if required by statute. This is best typified that most accountants support the view that small companies in the UK and that's more than 90% of them) do not need to file such vital information as their profit and loss account on public record.
The second is the long standing support that the accounting profession provides to tax havens where secrecy is the hallmark of their trade. These tax havens by doing so, and by using the definition of integrity used, undermine:
â€šÃ„¢ the provision of high quality information that people can rely on;
â€šÃ„¢ markets, which may allocate resources inefficiently as a result;
â€šÃ„¢ the delivery of value to individuals, organisations and nations; and
â€šÃ„¢ confidence in markets.
Nowhere does the report address these issues. Words like 'public record' and 'offshore' do not exist in it.
Put simply, unless the ICAEW is planning to come out against minimal disclosure, offshore and secrecy this report is a charade. It walks round the elephant in the reporting room - which is the fact that in too many cases reporting is not required at all, and that accountants are complicit in this. That reveals a fundamental lack of integrity. I'll be asking the ICAEW that they intend to do about this. Please don't hold your breath whilst waiting for a response.