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Key Activities - Regulation & Monitoring

Some of the RPBs reacted strongly to our 2003 Recommendation that they should adopt a more proactive approach to regulation and monitoring. At our meetings with the RPBs and JIMU we emphasised that fair regulation to be fair it needs to be consistent and proactive and supported by uniform monitoring.

For these reasons that the IPC is pleased to note that, following an initiative by the IPA, the JIC is now discussing proposals to bring the IP Monitors into a closer working relationship with the JIC, to set up a sub-group to look at disciplinary procedures and to establish annual regulatory forum. Two of our recommendations in 2003 were on broadly similar lines. During 2004, both the ICAEW and the IPA developed plans for the monitoring of their members when JIMU ended its work at the end of the year.

The ICAEW introduced Practice Assurance, which also covers its more general accountancy members. Practice Assurance enables the ICAEW to set its own timetable for monitoring visits. It made an offer to all IPs who were not already members to become affiliate members and transfer to the ICAEW.

Larger firms with IPs licensed from several RPBs could then be covered by monitoring visits from the ICAEW. JIMU will be disbanded early in 2005 when the ICAEW introduces Practice Assurance to their insolvency practitioner members.

The IPA held a number of consultation meetings around the UK with its members and interested parties (including the IPC) as to the style of monitoring and regulation that would be the most effective.

In the autumn further meetings were convened to advise members of the proposals and the new arrangements started in January 2005. The new monitoring programme, which focuses more on performance, commenced on January 4 2005.

The changes by the IPA and the ICAEW will take some time to settle down and so the IPC has decided to leave its 2003 recommendations on the table and to follow them up in our discussions with the JIC.

Complaints Procedures
In 2003 three members of the IPC visited the offices of ACCA, ICAEW and IPA to understand exactly how complaints were handled. They were given access to over 200 files and whilst there are some differences in the actual process it was felt that, generally speaking, the systems and responses were satisfactory. It had been hoped to visit the IS in 2004 but this had to be postponed and will now take place in April 2005. The IPC is however, still receiving a number of complaints directly from the public.

These usually relate to fees or lack of information/poor response to letters. In the first instance, these are normally discussed with the IP involved in the hope of resolving the matter in a speedy and satisfactory manner. If the problem persists, the complainant is advised to make the complaint direct to the appropriate RPB making reference to the contact with the IPC. The complainant is always advised that the IPC is not an ombudsman and therefore, cannot act on their behalf but it may well take an interest in a case as there could be a matter of public interest that needs to be followed through with the RPB.

Whilst it may feel a little uncomfortable for the RPB when the IPC asks to be kept informed about the handling of a complaint, there were occasions in 2004 when the involvement of the IPC has worked very well for all parties in resolving matters of misunderstanding by the complainant. Complaints are one of the few ways in which the public at large can influence the standards of insolvency practice. The IPC intends to maintain its close contact with other public interest representative organisations and may review its interest in the complaints procedures in 2005.

The Insolvency Practitioner Regulations 2005
The regulatory framework for insolvency practitioners is set out in the Insolvency Act 1986 and the Insolvency Practitioners Regulations 1990. These have for the most part worked successfully but require fine-tuning from time to time.

Towards the end of 2004 the IPC was consulted over three significant changes to the regulations which are intended to come into force on 1 April 2005. The bonding requirement, where among other matters, the net asset values are now to be taken as opposed to the gross value (where there is already a charge to a third party). This change, for which the profession had lobbied strongly with the support of the IPC, is welcomed.

Other proposed changes relate to the keeping of records about time spent on a case to be provided by an IP to creditors and the setting of the requirements for Continuous Professional Development (CPD) for the IPs licensed by the Secretary of State. Generally speaking these are improvements giving better understanding and more transparency, which is in line with the aims of the IPC.

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