Until 1993, the ACCA Council election ballot papers were returned to the Chief Executive though a firm of accountants acted as scrutineers. The day to day control of returned ballot papers remained with the Chief Executive. To any fair minded person this procedure is unacceptable since it provides ample opportunity for fiddles and fixes, especially as Council election candidates are not permitted to attend the count or demand recount.
Professor Sikka (who was also a candidate for Council elections) spoke up about the issues involved and wrote to the Association. The ACCA Chief Executive failed to provide a satisfactory reply. When Professor Sikka indicated that he would draw the attention of regulators and other bodies to the ACCA electoral practices, the ACCA Chief Executive sought to silence him by exerting pressure on his (then) employers, the University of East London. Without the knowledge of Professor Sikka (and without ever providing a copy to Professor Sikka), the ACCA Chief Executive wrote to the University's Vice-Chancellor, stating “I have been in correspondence with a member of your staff, Mr. Prem Sikka. I enclose herewith copies of the letters which have been exchanged. ......I am somewhat surprised that these particular letters from Mr. Sikka should have come to me on University of East London notepaper, suggesting that the University endorses the stance which he has taken ..... I shall be interested to have your comments on this” (Letter dated 2 August 1993 from ACCA Chief Executive to the Vice-Chancellor of the University of East London).
In interpreting this event, it ought to be borne in mind that on numerous previous occasions (and since) Professor Sikka had corresponded with the Association on his University's notepaper. On no previous occasion (or since), did any official of the Association sought to raise the contents of letters with the University's Vice-Chancellor. It is submitted that numerous other individuals and academics also write to the Association on headed notepaper. Yet the Association has been unable to provide any other example of an instance when it referred the matters back to the employers. The obvious conclusion is that the motive was to exert pressure on the University of East London and silence Professor Sikka. Such a suspicion is further confirmed by a public statement by the ACCA’s Director of Professional Standards which stated that “if there was institutional endorsement of Mr. Sikka’s views, the association may have considered cancelling its long-standing accreditation of its courses at the university” (Financial Times, December 1993, page 14).
The Vice-Chancellor of the University of East London acted in an exemplary manner and supported Professor Sikka’s right to exercise his academic and democratic freedoms. His reply of 8th September 1993 stated that “We expect our academic staff to be active members of their professional associations and provided they conduct correspondence with due propriety, the University would not expect to be involved”.
The Association's conduct was condemned in an Early Day Motion the House of Commons ( fact not reported in the ACCA in-house magazine). It prompted its then President to write a personal letter of apology to Professor Sikka and the matter was allowed to rest. However, the Association has not withdrawn the statement made by its Director of Professional Standards either through the letters pages of Financial Times, writing directly to the University of East London or any other University which might run courses accredited by the Association, Professor Sikka or any of the MPs who condemned the Association’s conduct. By a co-incidence, soon after this incidence, the ACCA was obliged to bring in independent ballot counters.
In a civilized society, the accreditation of any educational
course should always depend upon the framework of course content and educational
considerations. It should never be conditional upon the gagging of academics
and people who want to exercise their human rights and speak up about undemocratic
practices. The Association’s conduct is contrary to the values of liberal
democracies. The leadership does not even recognize that dissent and questioning
is an essential part of liberal democracies. Many of the rights which people
enjoy today have only appeared because someone somewhere questioned the