In response to requests from ACCA members AABA will continue to present
ACCA in turmoil over sacking of president-elect
(The Accountant, May 1999, page 3)
CONFUSION REIGNS over the sensational sacking of Ray Gardiner, president-elect of the UK-based Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA), before he was due to take office this month.
Gardiner was unseated by a vote of no confidence of the ACCA's council just hours ahead of the association's 6 May annual general meeting. Members voted 25-10 to bar Gardiner, the-then deputy president, from assuming the top job vacated by the outgoing Michael Foulds.
John Brockwell, Marks & Spencer divisional financial controller, has taken over instead. In normal circumstances, Brockwell would have become deputy president and succeeded Gardiner as president next year.
Gardiner, a campaigner for greater openness and accountability at the association, was removed over his role in a disciplinary matter involving former council member Robert Jackson. Gardiner provided a witness statement in the case, in which Jackson was accused of backdating Norwich Union policy applications to obtain free shares.
In a statement issued after the AGM, the ACCA said only that the no confidence vote "followed discussion of various corporate governance issues".
"Council's decision was made after it debated the contents of a report, tabled at its meeting on 22 April, of matters arising from a disciplinary case," the statement added.
So far, the association has failed to elaborate further. But days after the AGM, another senior council member, Tony Cruse, quit in protest. As a condition of his resignation, ACCA has agreed to an independent legal inquiry into the Jackson case.
In an interview with The Accountant, Gardiner made it clear that he considered the Jackson case to be a side issue. The real agenda, he said, was his strong advocacy of greater openness and his wish to redress the balance of power between council and the executive.
He believes the new council arrangements limit the opportunity for new members to develop their knowledge and understanding. The vibrant input of this "new blood" is essential to council's role as trustee to the membership at large, he said.
Gardiner pointed out that the council currently consists of 35 members, of whom two-thirds average under two years' service.
This contrasts with a very experienced 'core' of long-standing members, with up to 20 years' service. The latter group includes five past presidents and members who have retired from full-time employment.
Gardiner is also a strong opponent of the ACCA's controversial proxy voting system, which he believes enables the president to exercise disproportionate power. "It can be a power for bad as well as good and is therefore flawed," he said.
It is understood that Gardiner was also unhappy with the handling of the ACCA's 'hostile bid' for merger with the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) and public sector body the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy
Gardiner is also a CIMA member and favours integration.
Gardiner, now employed by the University of Central Lancashire after a top-level career in business, said he will remain on council until his retirement in a year's time. "I will continue to strive for the two objectives of greater openness and accountability and will continue to ask the questions that should be asked," he said.
Gardiner said he has received many supportive calls from ACCA members who are "deeply concerned" by the affair. Were the ACCA to pursue a disciplinary case against him over the Jackson matter, he said he would welcome the opportunity to clear his name.
At the AGM, Meanwhile, outgoing president Foulds would not answer questions from members on why Gardiner had been forced out. Foulds did not allude to the matter at all in a 30-minute speech. One member's request that the press should be excluded from the meeting so the affair could be discussed behind closed doors was rebuffed.
One ex-council member, Tony Thomas, angrily declared that the vote of
no-confidence should have been taken instead against those members who
voted for Gardiner's removal.