For the past 10 months since he retired as IASB chairman, Sir David Tweedie has been keeping a low profile. But that’s all going to change in a couple of weeks as he takes over as ICAS president on 20 April.
Until now he has deliberately kept out of the way to allow his successor at the IASB to carry on the drive towards convergence of global accounting standards, but ahead of taking up his new role Sir David has started talking to the press again. In this interview with AccountingWEB, he sets out his plans for the year ahead.
While he has tried not to get too involved, preferring to “watch from afar and leave it for the new guys”, Sir David does admit to some frustration that the international project has bogged down - primarily due to the US Securities and Exchange Commission’s reluctance to replace US GAAP with the IFRS approach.
“I feel frustration, but I’m sure sure [IASB chairman] Hans [Hoogervorst] does too. The subjects they’re tackling are tough, such as leasing, where you have a $600bn industry that’s off-balance sheet and lots of people interested in keeping it that way. There’s a lot to push back and the board wants to be sure it has thought of everything. But what we’re looking for from the SEC is an indication of what they’re going to do and when,” said Sir David.
“Until they do, they’re going to hold up the whole project. Japan is waiting to see what the US does. China too - the project has got to keep going and the Americans hold the key.”
Given its choice of president for 2012, it’s no surprise to learn that ICAS is very pro-IFRS. For Sir David, his new role revives memories of 1978-82, when he was the institute’s technical director. During that time ICAS published a number of research documents that paved the way for much of the work he carried forward at the UK Accounting Standards Board (ASB) and then the IASB in the years that followed.
Having started the ball rolling with accounting standards reform, Tweedie is keen to pick up the baton 30 years later and do something similar about future of the audit. “That’s the beauty of accounting - there are so many things are not right,” he said, cueing himself up for one of his signature jokes: “How many auditors do you need to change a lightbulb? None, because they’ll form a committee to say it’s not their responsibility.”
Tweedie plans to push on with ideas set out in a 2010 ICAS report on the future of assurance that proposed new audit principles and processes based around more coherent, narrative annual reports. Auditors would have to provide a new “balanced and reasonable” opinion that drew on the auditor’s knowledge of the business to offer a more grounded assessment of the annual report.
He also told AccountingWEB about his plans to focus on small business issues and professional ethics during his year in office. Register with the site to read the full interview.