Accounting Standards

Are accounting standards public enough?

CA Magazine might be freely giving away their content for the benefit of all stakeholders in the CA profession and public accounting in general, but the goodwill doesn’t extend to the CICA when it comes to Canadian accounting and auditing standards.

The CICA, through the Accounting Standards Board (AcSB), develops public accounting standards through a remarkably public process of consultation and comment, but once the standard makes it into the Handbook, it is rarely seen in public again. The Handbook is available online, if you’re a member of the Institute. That is, only if you’re a CA do you get access to the goods.

Additionally, when one Googles “CICA Handbook”, the first result is a link to “Enhanced online access to CICA Handbook”! (This the access available only to CICA members.) A link to the protected Handbook is featured prominently on the CICA homepage. “Great,” a new visitor thinks, “the Handbook is only a mouse click away!” But that click takes you again to the paywall.

I posed the question directly to the Institute, and later in the day received my response: “The CICA Handbook is only granted to members as a part of their annual dues thru their Provincial Institute. You may be able to come across a copy in print in a local Library, assuming the Library has one for public use.” Pay the dues, get access to the public standards.

The profession exists to protect the public interest, so I have to question whether access to the fruits of the profession’s labour, the standards themselves, are holding up this ideal. What do you think?