ACCA EGM took place at 29 Lincoln’s Inn at 11 a.m. on 17th February 2000. The outcome was already known to ACCA officials who had secured a 90% vote against the motion and they had received a report on the votes cast (see below)
In common with previous EGMs, ACCA President opened the debate by unilaterally deciding the rules (In past such rulings have never been minuted. Thus ACCA is in breach of the law on meetings). President John Brockwell decided that he would allow Anthony Thomas ten minutes to speak followed by rebuttal from ACCA Vice-President George Auger (Why was Deputy-President Moyra Kedslie not allowed to speak?) and then the audience could have just three minutes each.
Anthony Thomas spoke very elegantly and professionally about the need for an independent commissions to examine the governance of the Association. He reminded the audience that ACCA had acted in an unprofessional manner over the balloting. For example, the organisers of the EGM had only been allowed two pages whilst ACCA took 20. Then there were intimidating letters to members in Malaysia and Singapore and the lavish use of the ACCA money to throw dinners and parties in Malaysia. He argued that ACCA document was misleading and full on innuendoes. He also questioned the role of the ACCA chief executive. He reminded the audience that despite taking 20 pages and its offensive, ACCA has failed to say anything about lawsuits in the UK, India and elsewhere, there was little information about the legal aspects of the problems in Malaysia or the subsidisation of students in China.
In response George Auger’s presentation was very glossy but lacked any substance. He claimed that the Association was modern. As usual, the ACCA hierarchy was in a self-congratulatory mode.
The meeting was then thrown ‘open’. The first to speak was former council member Pat Carruthers who argued that the ‘proxy voting system’ was undemocratic and open to abuse as it enabled one person (President) to exercise disproportionate influence. As a result council was ‘appointed’ rather than elected and this prevented real debate. The issue of ‘proxy voting system came up again and again and a number of speakers referred to as an ‘outdated’ and ‘inappropriate’ system that referred to the ‘past’.
Former Deputy-President Ray Gardiner was prevented from speaking by ACCA President who would not give him more than three minutes even though ACCA’s own document referred to him by name. At one time, one of the ACCA’s representative also jumped up and prevented him from speaking any further about the Association’s attempts to discipline him.
Former President Michael Harvey also spoke in support of the motion and asked the Association to be more open and democratic. He argued that change was inevitable and that by refusing to change. the Association portrays itself as backward
Prem Sikka challenged George Auger’s claim that the Association was ‘modern’ by reminding the audience that at the dawn of the 21st century the Association does not hold any direct elections for its officeholders, does not admit the members (or the public) to council meetings and refuses to embrace the concept of one-man-one vote. He also criticised the Association’s colonial structure where the control rests in London. The Association has never had a non-white officeholder or an officeholder from outside the UK. Yet it claims to be global.
Roger Godin condemned the leadership for basking in its own aggrandisement and not listening to members at all.
Jaffer Manek explained that ACCA rides roughshod over its members and concocts disciplinary cases to silence ‘critical’ members. He condemned the ‘worship’ culture in the magazine which is full of the photos of ‘the not so good and the not so great’. He explained that the ACCA does not appear to be accountable to any one and operates like a public limited company rather than professional body.
John Davies condemned the leadership for its heavy handed treatment of members and argued that Presidents have misled members over the hostile take-over of CIMA and CIPFA. He argued that former Presidents, Foulds and Lennard, should be disciplined for allegedly providing misleading information to ACCA members.
One member had three goes at asking a very simple question. “Did ACCA chief executive delegate ACCA resources to a Mr. Rahim (in Malaysia - used for urging members to vote against the resolution) and had the council approved it. If not would disciplinary action be taken against the chief executive?”. Eventually, ACCA President, John Brockwell, replied that ACCA chief executive had delegated resources to Mr. Rahim but council had not approved it. He did not answer the question about disciplining Mrs. Rose.
Michael Harvey also got the President to admit that the cost of the EGM is around £65,000 (not the £80,000 that the ACCA has been banding around in the press) though the President could not give information about the relative cost of mailing Thomas/Cruse statement (two pages ) and the council statement (twenty pages).
The hang’em and quarter them brigade was also present in full force. One member asked that the EGM organisers and there supporters “should be shot”. He also said that those who are unhappy with the current state of the ACCA should leave (nice tolerant chap!). This is akin to saying that 80% of the US electorate who did not support Bill Clinton at the last election, or 63% of the electorate that did not support Tony Blair in the last UK electorate should all pack their bags or shut up. The person was applauded by some council members. Just shows you how liberal they are. Of course, they never reflect that the rights that they enjoy today are only there because someone somewhere in the past raised their head above the parapet and argued that lives can be better, fulfilling and meaningful. Neither do they understand that democracy is not necessarily about ‘majority rule’ (in the law of the jungle, the majority can always kill murder, rape destroy a minority). Rather it about enabling minorities (we are all minorities in some many ways) to express their concerns. This is how eventually the majority views come to be formed and encourages human beings to respct each others views. But don’t expect such philosophical reflections from the right-wing that dominates ACCA.
ACCA member Ken Stones argued that in future EGMs should require 1,000 signatures and that he is organising a motion to that effect for the 4th May 2000 AGM (AABA urges ACCA members to vote against such a resolution). He did not call for an end to the censorship of the magazine to enable members to air their concerns, or call for an independent ombudsman to hear disputes. Nor did he condemn the leadership for routinely failing to answer questions at the AGM or the EGM. Neither did he say what the dissatisfied members are to do when they find that all avenues for dialogue are closed. EGMs are not oragnised lightly as they impose time, financial, family and psychological costs on the organisers.
Tony Cruse explained that ACCA has not allowed an honest debate. Former President David Bishop concluded the meeting by speaking against the resolution.
To some extent the debate was merely going through the motion. Most members had responded by binning the ballot paper. Their membership fees are probably paid by their employers, or they regard the fees as a necessary evil to secure letters after their name. They don’t care much about how ACCA is governed. Others had merely done what the Association asked them to do and voted against the resolution. Some given their vote to ACCA President who cast 439 votes (whatever happened to one person one vote?).
The interesting thing that those who came with ‘open minds’, listened to the debate and weighed-up the arguments, voted overwhelmingly FOR the resolution by a margin of 4:1. The details are as follows:
For the Against
Resolution the Resolution Total
Proxy votes cast 651 7615 8266
Votes cast after listening
to the debate 121 33 154
Total 772 7648 8420
Deputy-President George Auger promised that the issue of ‘proxy votes’
would be looked at. But please don’t hold your breath. Similar promises
were made in the past. No evidence of any kind was sought from members
and no report was published. It was just that some elites decided that
their view was the only one and they were not going to relinquish their
control of ACCA. Expect the same again.