Changes to the Rulebookarise largely from policy decisions, legislative and lead regulator requirements, or changes to the IESBA Code which must be replicated in the ACCA Code.
Consent orders A significant change to the regulations concerns the introduction of consent orders. On occasions, the procedures of ACCA and other professional bodies determine that the issues being investigated are not sufficiently serious to warrant being dealt with by a disciplinary committee.
The changes to the regulations allow for the future use of consent orders, which, in suitable circumstances, provide a more nuanced set of outcomes to investigations. The regulations most affected are the Complaints and Disciplinary Regulations and the Regulatory Board and Committee Regulations.
Audit qualification An amendment to the Rulebook was made in 2015 in respect of the period within which a student is required to complete the ACCA qualification examinations in order to achieve ACCA membership. Previously, this was ten years, and related to all examination papers – at both the Fundamentals and the Professional level. The change means that students registering for the ACCA Qualification on or after 1 January 2016 will be required to pass all the Professional level papers within a period of seven years.
Further changes have been made to Annexes 1, 2, 3 and 4 in respect of those members wishing to go on to apply for the audit qualification. These changes:
restrict the time period for completion of the Professional Level to five years
restrict the time period for completion of the Fundamentals Level to five years, such that the period for completing both Levels remains within ten years
ensure that the qualification is not obtained on the basis of exemptions based on qualifications gained more than five years prior to claiming the exemption
provide clarity in respect of the specific tax and law papers that must be passed in each jurisdiction
achieve simplification and greater consistency by improved drafting.
Notice period Amendments have been made to the notice provisions contained within the Complaints and Disciplinary Regulations and the Authorisation Regulations so that ACCA gives the relevant person 28 days’ notice of a hearing (previously 42 days). In turn the relevant person will then have to submit their documentation/information 14 days before a hearing (previously 21 days).
These amendments will enable ACCA to have greater flexibility in relation to listing, while at the same time ensuring that the relevant person still has a reasonable period of notice of the hearing in which to prepare. The changes provide greater consistency between the Complaints and Disciplinary Regulations and the Authorisation Regulations.
Publicity provisions Throughout the disciplinary and regulatory regulations the publicity provisions have been further clarified to remove any requirement for the Committee to determine whether to name the relevant person. This will bring ACCA in line with other regulators, adheres to current case law and the principles of open justice, and further enables hearings to run more efficiently.
Open hearings The provisions relating to open hearings in both the Complaints and Disciplinary Regulations and Appeal Regulations have been amended in order to narrow the circumstances within which it would be appropriate to hold a hearing in private. These changes reflect the widely accepted approach of ‘open justice’.
Membership regulations Apart from minor consequential changes to these regulations arising out of the introduction of consent orders and the Consent Orders Committee, the changes to the Membership Regulations and its Appendices concern changes to the practical experience requirement in order to become an ACCA member (Appendix 2) or a Certified Accounting Technician (Appendix 4).
These changes are effective from 1 January 2016. They reflect the changing roles of accountants, and the different skills sought by employers. The changes also seek to remove unnecessary barriers to conversion, as there is currently considered to be excessive focus on recording and reflecting on experiences, rather than the verification of competence through evidence.
Global practising regulations In addition to the changes made to the annexes in respect of the audit qualification (explained above), the following changes are proposed:
to improve the drafting throughout, to reduce repetition and redundant text and improve consistency (for example, by referring to ACCA as ‘the Association’)
to make clear that the exclusion of bookkeeping services from the meaning of ‘public practice’ is for the purpose of the Global Practising Regulations only, and so bookkeeping would be considered to be public practice for the purpose of the Code of Ethics and Conduct
to make clear, in Annex 2, that insolvency practice falls within the meaning of ‘public practice’, and to define ‘insolvency practitioner’ appropriately.
Regulatory board and committee regulations As explained above, the changes to these regulations have arisen due to the intended introduction of consent orders. Specifically, changes to the Regulatory Board and Committee Regulations set out the establishment, constitution and powers of the Consent Orders Committee. They also explain the impact of being a member of a Consent Orders Committee on a panel member’s eligibility to sit on substantive hearings or on a health committee.
Authorisation regulations In addition to the changes concerning the publicity and notice provisions, the authorisation regulations have been amended to allow the Admissions and Licensing Committee to reconstitute itself as an Interim Orders Committee, specifically for the purpose of deciding whether to vary or revoke an existing interim order, as well as to make an order. This provides consistency with the drafting in the Complaints and Disciplinary Regulations.
Complaints and disciplinary regulations In addition to the significant changes made in respect of consent orders, and the changes already described in respect of publicity and notice periods, the changes correct some minor drafting errors in respect of the responsibilities of various parties under the case management provisions, and clarify the procedure for the amendment of allegations. Additionally, an amendment has been made to address a difficulty that has arisen when ACCA is applying to withdraw some (but not all) of the allegations against a relevant person.
The changes also include a power for the chairman alone to be able to consider an application to amend the allegations in advance of a final disciplinary hearing. This is to avoid applications (where a change to the allegations is sought) taking up valuable hearing time. Drafting errors have also been amended in relation to admissions at hearings and the procedure at hearings. Finally, a paragraph has been removed in respect of the consideration of orders, in order to simplify the regulations.
Interim orders The changes to these regulations include an express provision (similar to the one in the Complaints and Disciplinary Regulations) to enable an Interim Orders Committee to proceed in the absence of the relevant person where appropriate notice has been given. The drafting of the provision relating to hearings being held in private has also been simplified.
Code of ethics and conduct The changes to the Code of Ethics and Conduct have come about largely as a consequence of changes to independence requirements within the Code of Ethics for Professional Accountants (‘the IESBA Code’). In accordance with its IFAC membership obligations, ACCA is required to replicate these changes within its own Code.
However, further changes have been made within a section of the Code that is specific to ACCA members. The changes to the internal complaints-handling procedures (within section B9) are required in order to meet the requirements of ACCA’s authorisation as an Alternative Dispute Resolution body.