Major changes ahead for CPA Australia’s Quality Review Program

Content Summary

Jacqueline Blondell | February 2021

This article was current at the time of publication

A focus on continuous improvement and practice sustainability are the hallmarks of CPA Australia’s new CPA Best Practice Program, due to launch later this year.

It will replace the long-standing Quality Review Program which has been in operation at CPA Australia since 1994.

Fit for purpose?

The impetus for the shift was a 2018 review of CPA Australia’s Professional Standards Scheme governance processes. 

“One of the recommendations of that exercise was to examine the Quality Review Program to assess whether it was still fit for purpose and providing member value,” notes Clare Bannon, senior manager professional standards CPA Australia. 

The subsequent review involved a best practice benchmarking exercise with other accounting bodies and extensive member research. 

“We interviewed members, quality reviewers, those who undertook quality reviews and those sitting on member committees,” Bannon explains. 

“We asked what worked well, where there was room for improvement and how we can better provide value to members.

“Overwhelmingly, the feedback was they didn’t see much value in what felt like a compliance check.”

One encounter she relates is a practitioner who had only been in practice five years, who told Bannon she wanted “best practice” defined. 

“She wanted to know how to establish her business so that it was sustainable [and] to understand how to make continuous improvements”.

“Overall, members were looking for that benchmark and more guidance from CPA Australia.”

4 major changes will emerge

1. A focus on member value

The previous program fundamentally focused on Public Practice Certificate (PPC) holders’ compliance with professional and ethical standards. 

While compliance is still a fundamental requirement, the new program also focuses on supporting and guiding members towards building a sustainable business aligned to best practice, as laid out in the My Firm. My Future framework.

2. The mix of assessors will change

Previously, reviews were carried out by a pool of member peers. Best practice reviews will now be conducted by experienced internal CPA Australia assessors.

Assessments can be done in three ways: virtually, face-to-face, or a mix of both, depending on the complexity of the review.

A second group of external assessors who are experienced practitioners will act as peers, providing valued business guidance and support. 

“We are also offering a new peer consultation that offers new PPC holders an optional two-hour virtual consultation with an experienced peer,” Bannon adds. “The peer will provide members with support on how to set their business up for success, ensuring they are assessing their business needs, and with their business goals in mind [for] strategically planning for the future”.

The peer assessor will also connect the new practitioner with tools and resources, including e-learning and discussion guides. 

To date, five assessors have been recruited for each program. They are currently being trained and will participate in pilots before the formal launch of the program.

CPA Australia is looking to recruit additional best practice assessors and peer assessors, who will be located in Australian regions and New Zealand.

3. A move away from the individual to assessing the firm

This approach is designed to take a more holistic view of the firm as opposed to individual CPA Australia PPC holders.  

“Support and advice, including an examination of the risk management framework, will be undertaken at the firm – rather than individual – level,” Bannon says. 

“We will talk to all partners together and also issue the report to all partners.”

If firms have partners who are CAs who have recently undergone a CA ANZ [Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand] assessment, they may qualify for an exemption under a reciprocal arrangement currently being developed between the two professional bodies. 

Notably, while reviewing the program, CPA Australia combined with CA ANZ to conduct collaborative reviews of both programs, assessing similarities and synergies to align the programs for consistency.

4. Reducing regulatory burden

One of the key components of the CPA Best Practice Program is to ensure better collaboration with other regulatory bodies (such as the Professional Standards Councils, Tax Practitioners Board and Australian Securities & Investments Commission) to reduce regulatory burden.

CPA Australia has developed memorandums of understanding (MoUs) with several bodies using de-identified data to pinpoint trends and share information to cut the regulatory burden imposed on the profession. 

“The objective of the MoUs is to facilitate engagement, cooperation and proactive information-sharing, Bannon says. “It is a wonderful collaboration.”

New technology, which will be used by CPA Australia’s Best Practice team, assessors and firms under review, is currently in development.

Over the coming months, INPRACTICE will continue to update you on its progress.