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What makes a professional body?

It’s an interesting question and I know we will all have differing views so I can only hope in writing this piece I, in fact, remain professional and am not shot down in flames.

What makes a professional body?
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  • Contributed by Wayne Debernardi
  • November 08, 2019
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When it comes to politics, it is often cited that government is only as strong as its opposition. I think historically, that has been the case. I wonder though whether that is still the case as government and opposition blur the policy lines.

But when it comes to what a professional association stands for, I never tend to think of government. So, when it comes to professional associations, I would argue that the professionalism of the organisation is only as good as the professionalism of its members.

While I have worked in many organisations, private and government, I can honestly say I have never worked in an environment that simply oozes with professionalism as the IPA; chiefly because it is focused on its members, underlying organisational values and the quality of its members.

Sure, one may be sceptical and say I am towing the party line and, after seven years of service, I am rusted on. However, as a journalist and as an individual, I also have my own code of ethics.

As a professional, I abide by them. There are many definitions of professionalism and if you are unsure, Google your heart out. Regardless of the words and definitions, I think every individual needs to take ownership of what being a professional means to them.

Professionalism takes its toll

Our members are constantly under attack of the red tape militants. The regulatory burden, for themselves and their clients, remains an issue. The IPA constantly advocates for reform that reduces the regulatory burden for its members and small business.

However, as IPA CEO Andrew Conway often says, cutting red tape necessitates legislative change and that may mean, at times, that two new pieces of red tape are created. Having said that, the IPA’s advocacy team continues the good fight.

The IPA recognises the fact that a professional body must also act in the best interests of the public. From my observations over the past seven years, I am not just confident that this is the case, I am astounded by the passion of our members that drives this common cause.

But professionalism is also your umbrella… 

The IPA’s quality assurance (QA) and compliance processes do not exist from a big brother, judgemental factor. The processes are designed to protect members by making sure all is running well, obligations are met, the best interest of clients is preserved, and to retain their professionalism.

In fact, we want all of our members to exceed expectations and raise the bar, not for the IPA, but for themselves and for the clients, employers and businesses they serve. I challenge anyone who does not want to be a part of a quality organisation when given the choice. Quality moves beyond professionalism (behavioural), ethics (a moral code) and vision (what we aspire to be as an organisation and as an individual).

If a member under QA review is struggling due to misunderstanding or an unwitting mistake or time constraints, the IPA is more than happy to help until the standards we should aspire to are met. Unfortunately, some apples fall far from the tree and there are those who deliberately do the wrong thing. The IPA is not the place for them.

Why is this all so important?

Maintaining a high level of standards; meeting legislative and regulative obligations; and currency of knowledge and skills in an everchanging competitive and technologically driven world, gives members the edge over the rest.

It also protects the integrity of the profession as a whole and this is the umbrella for all that sits beneath it.

Integrity ensures accountants keep the honoured and respected status of ‘trusted adviser’. This status should never be taken for granted, particularly when research informs us that trust is on the decline globally.

The integrity of the profession and the solid standard held by accountants in the community amplifies our advocacy voice. Yes, that means that IPA members contribute to our advocacy efforts by maintaining the trusted and respected role they play with their clients, employers and businesses.

Advocacy is not an easy game in our political and socioeconomic environment. However, together, and being on the same page, we can set the scene of discourse to push for positive policy outcomes for the profession and the economy.

As Winston Churchill once said, “A kite flies against the wind, not with it”. 

Wayne Debernardi general manager, media and strategic communicationsl, IPA

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