Friday, October 15, 2021

KPMG Found To Be Untruthful - Whither Professional Standards?


 

The Financial Reporting Council (FRC) published a summary of a tribunal that found a senior partner at KPMG had presented an “untruthful” defence during a disciplinary hearing.

The FRC hearing was convened to investigate KPMG’s misconduct during the sale of bedmaker Silentnight to a private equity fund. The tribunal found that partner David Costley-Wood failed to co-operate with the accounting regulator’s investigators. 

During August of this year, KPMG was fined £13m and incurred costs of over £2.75m for its role in placing Silentnight into a insolvency process during 2011 that allowed private equity firm HIG Capital to acquire it without the burden of a £100m pension scheme liability.

KPMG’s lack of objectivity and “obvious” conflict of interest was the latest in a string of public humiliations including lawsuits and disciplinary complaints relating to audits the firm carried out at Carillion, Rolls-Royce and Conviviality, the owner of Bargain Booze.

This latest sanction was a huge financial hit for the Big Four firm. The tribunal report states that for the first time ever, the tribunal found a respondent had advanced dishonest evidence. 

Costley-Wood, who faced fines of £500,000 for his involvement in the original case, claimed that Silentnight faced a “burning platform” prior to the debt sale agreement. However, the tribunal stated: “The defence put forward by Mr Costley-Wood in relation to the burning platform was a construct invented by him to assist in his defence.”

The FRC said mounting an untruthful defence “seriously risks undermining the regulatory system [and] compounds the original failings”.

Not unreasonably decent, professional, honest members of the ICAEW are asking why the shameful behaviour of the larger firms is not being addressed adequately by the ICAEW.

The subject of ethics brings to mind my application for the role of the ICAEW's Ethics Examiner in 2005. 

As I noted in 2005 I was invited for interview on 19th October, along with 24 other candidates who had applied for the other 11 papers. Prior to the interview I was sent the 5 page Ethics syllabus to read through, together with some other information and a training disc.

I had a one to one 20 minute interview, then a 45 minute panel interview. Seemingly I was the only person to specify Ethics as my first/only choice of paper.

I was told that I would hear by the end of the month, and that if chosen I would have to make a decision quickly; as work on the paper would start in November.

I received an email on the 1st of November which stated that since the interviews the ICAEW had rethought the approach to Ethics, and that there may well not be an assessment of the kind envisaged.

As such no Ethics exam team would be appointed.

Well then!

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Thursday, September 02, 2021

The Profession Finally Recognises The Value of Internal Audit


Accountancy Age states that a more collaborative relationship between internal and external audit will be a critical step as the profession strives to increase quality and bolster its standing in the public eye, according to industry voices.

“I think it would produce much stronger assurance,” says Liz Sandwith, chief professional practices advisor at the Chartered Institute for Internal Auditors (CIIA). 

“Each side knowing and understanding that control environment and what new and emerging risks are being mitigated, would help them both do their job that much better.”

Though fundamentally similar, several disparities exist between the two functions. Internal audit will examine issues related to business practices, while their external counterparts issue opinions regarding financial statements and records.

The purpose of the two sides is also key. Internal audit reports act as a tool for the organisation’s management, whereas external audit caters to key stakeholders such as lenders, investors and creditors.

“Internal audit are there 365 days a year and, therefore, have a much greater understanding of the organisation, and a much broader remit. There is a real opportunity for external audit to build on this knowledge rather than repeating it.”

Sandwith’s view largely resembles that of Sir Tony Redmond, who was commissioned by the UK government in 2020 to conduct a review into the effectiveness of external audit and transparency of financial reporting in local authorities. While focusing on the external side of audit, the review makes several references to its relationship with internal auditing.

“There is a question as to whether external audit could make more use of the knowledge and expertise of internal audit in developing sufficient understanding of the local authority,” it said.

“Internal auditors are likely to be much closer to the business than external audit and, in many authorities, a proportion of their work focuses on governance and service delivery matters. This could make internal audit a rich source of knowledge, should the external audit team wish to use it.”

I find it more than a little ironic that the usefulness of internal audit, and the need for collaborating with it, is only now being discussed when in 2002 I wrote about the Added Value of Internal Audit here is a brief extract:

"Internal audit provides independent objective assurance to the Board as to the adequacy of the business controls, and the effectiveness of the risk management and risk identification process.

In other words, the internal audit department should tell the Board when the company is being poorly managed, where risks are not being identified or mitigated and when the business objectives are not likely to be met.

In addition to this very wide ranging remit, a well run internal audit department adds value in the following ways:

 It acts as a training ground for future line managers, by exposing fast track members of the department to a variety of situations, activities and functions within the organisation.

 It provides a “one stop shop” for best practice advice.

 It provides an independent, objective opinion as to the quality of the business controls.

 It stimulates risk awareness throughout the organisation.

 It is a source of qualified, experienced talent that can aid management in business improvement programmes.

 It provides specialist professional independent opinions on a variety of situations; such as due diligence exercises.

 It reports on fraudulent activity within the organisation, with a view to understanding how it happened and how to prevent it occurring again.

 It ensures that the company wide initiatives, such as a code of conduct, are being adhered to.

In 2003 I went on to list the Attributes of a World Class Internal Audit Department  based on my experience as Head of Internal Audit and International Forensic Co-ordinator, in both Philips and De Beers.

It is more than a pity that it has taken almost 20 years for people to realise the worth of a well run internal audit department!

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Friday, August 06, 2021

Rebecca Cave Calls on Women To Step Forward For The FRC

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Thursday, July 22, 2021

Server Problems Stop Case Study Exams


 

Commiserations to the all the students submitting their case study exams yesterday, who were affected by server problems.

You are advised to contact the ICAEW via this link

Here are details from the ICAEW site

22 July

July Case Study exam
Unfortunately, during the Case Study exam yesterday, we encountered an issue with server capacity. Although our supplier had upscaled the server capacity to its maximum level, due to an underlying issue, the capacity was still was insufficient. Some students’ exams were paused, and we were unable to restart exams for some students. We do have the exam answers up to the point before the pause. We are investigating how we can fully and fairly assess all students affected in the next few weeks to ensure they keep on your career path. We will contact those students in the next few days with more details and options. Please accept our sincere apologies for any stress and inconvenience caused.If you have any questions regarding this please contact student support via icaew.com/webchat

21 July

July Case Study exam
All students who sat today's Case Study exam in UK exam centres and were severely affected have now been contacted via email about the issues some faced during the exam. We will contact students affected by these issues in the next few days with further details and options. Please accept our sincere apologies for any stress and inconvenience caused by these issues.

July Case Study exam
If you sat your Case Study exam today and experienced connection issues when trying to submit your exam, we apologise for this issue. We are aware that this issue has occurred and affected a number of students. If you sat your exam in centre, please be advised that the invigilator is aware of this issue and they will liaise with us to rectify this. If you sat your exam remotely, we advise that you leave your screen as it is, do not close any tabs and please attempt to submit your exam later, otherwise, we will upload your exam centrally.

July Case Study exam
Unfortunately due to a server load issue we have had to pause some of the Case Study exams temporarily in UK exam centres. We intend to resume the exam at 1:30, continuing from the point the exam was paused. We apologise for the stress and inconvenience this may cause. Affected students have been notified by their invigilator.

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Tuesday, June 22, 2021

KPMG Put on The "Naughty" Step

 

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Tuesday, May 25, 2021

The Compulsory Membership Conundrum


 

AccountancyAge reports that research demonstrating the overwhelming support of MPs for introducing compulsory accounting membership has divided the opinion of industry bodies, including the Institute for Chartered Accountants (ICAEW) and the Association for Accounting Technicians (AAT).

In May, the AAT published the results of a survey it commissioned to YouGov, revealing that 78% of MPs would support increased regulation of high street accountants and tax advisers. The body is campaigning for compulsory membership to become a legal requirement.

“Mandating professional body membership provides a ready-made solution. There’ll be greater reliance on the support and guidance we can provide to our members, but also that commitment to the maintenance of high standards,
” says Adam Harper, director of professional standards and policy at the AAT.

Unregulated advisors make up a third of the sector, and two thirds of its complaints regarding compliance and reporting errors stem directly from this demographic, according to HMRC data.

“When things go wrong, this will give us a mechanism to investigate and impose relevant sanctions against those that fall short of the standards we expect.”

The MP survey follows a separate AAT study published in April. It found that, out of more than 1,000 respondents, 59 percent said they were unaware that no professional or formal qualifications were required, and 57 percent thought that membership should be mandated.

But ICAEW practice director Amanda Digne-Malcom argues that the industry may be too far gone to make such a seismic change.

“Once you’ve got that legacy, sometimes it’s hard to turn that. If you sought to make a change, you run the risk of putting some people at a disadvantage.

“You’ve got a whole cadre of people who are accountants and earning a living from it, who are not from a professionally qualified background. I think the perception would be that it’s unduly harsh.”

Digne-Malcolm also acknowledges industry trust as a key element of these proposals, but notes that professional membership can’t be viewed as the only criteria for attaining this.

“If you’ve had rigorous training and you’re subject to monitoring, that contributes to the trust agenda. But that doesn’t mean to say that anyone who doesn’t fall under that can’t be trusted – I absolutely don’t believe it can be that black and white.”

Were compulsory membership of a professional body to become mandatory, the key issues would be:

1 Which body was the best?

2 How much should each body charge?

3 What extra costs would be levied (and passed on to the hapless membership) by the government for regulation and control?

4 What happens to those people already practising but not members of any professional body?

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Friday, May 21, 2021

ICAEW Members Castigate ICAEW

 


On my HMRC site I have noted that the ICAEW have given HMRC a well deserved kicking for its appalling service levels:

"ICAEW members are reporting that poor performance is being experienced across almost all HMRC services and ICAEW has been pressing for greater transparency about the problems being experienced and for a clear recovery plan. The Tax Faculty outlines the problems that have been raised and the action it has taken..."

However, the membership of the ICAEW are also pissed off with the ICAEW over its light touch towards HMRC failures. 

As per AccountingWeb:

"However, many in the profession have expressed the view that these are ongoing problems date far beyond the events of the pandemic.

None of this is to do with Covid, but it shows what happens to a system which is already broken when you give a huge kick, it just fragments and shatters,” commented AccountingWEB member irealyshouldknowthisbut.

“Covid-19 has provided the ultimate excuse for poor customer service to get even worse across much of the public sector and throughout the banking industry. We now see more clearly than ever the contempt in which we are held by these incompetent bullies,” added another member.

ICPA chair Tony Margaritelli concurred: “We hear that they value the work that agents do, but we don't actually see any real genuine evidence of it,” he told AccountingWEB. 

According to Margaritelli, the fact that ICAEW chose to publicly report on HMRC’s poor performance is significant in showing that people should be holding them to account more.

“They very seldom do [criticise] - they’re always very supportive, and rightly so,” he said. “But on both sides, when things are not right they need to be called out.”

Nicholas Smith, head of tax at Duncan & Toplis, concludes that enough members must have complained for the Institute to make such a public stance. “The one genuine bright spark that HMRC did was to have the agent dedicated helpline. And suddenly here we are two years down the line and we still haven’t got it back.”

It is a pretty poor reflection on the ICAEW that it needs a groundswell of negative comments from its membership to actually say something in public mildly critical of HMRC! 

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Wednesday, May 12, 2021

The Halcyon Days of Internal Audit


 I miss my time running an internal audit department, when I would refer to myself as "we" when writing internal audit reports.

Halcyon days!

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Friday, March 19, 2021

Restoring Trust in Audit and Corporate Governance

Restoring trust in audit and corporate governance

This white paper sets out proposals to strengthen the UK’s framework for major companies and the way they are audited.

Details

This white paper sets out proposals to strengthen the UK’s framework for major companies and the way they are audited. The proposals set out how:

  • companies should report on their governance and finances
  • reports should be audited
  • audit and the audit market should change
  • these should be overseen by a new regulator

The objectives of these reforms are to:

  • restore public trust in the way that the UK’s largest companies are run and scrutinised
  • ensure that the UK’s most significant corporate entities are governed responsibly
  • empower investors, creditors, workers, and other stakeholders by giving them access to reliable and meaningful information on a company’s performance
  • keep the UK’s legal frameworks for major businesses at the forefront of international best practice

The proposals respond to recommendations made by 3 independent reviews commissioned by the government in 2018:

Respond to the consultation

Please provide your views on these proposals: the consultation closes on 8 July 2021 at 11:45pm.

You can respond to the consultation online.

Documents

Restoring trust in audit and corporate governance

Order a copy

Restoring trust in audit and corporate governance

Order a copy

 

Every few years we go through the motions of "restoring trust", yet somehow or another never manage to achieve that "trust"!

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Thursday, March 18, 2021

Big Four To Have Their Wings Clipped - Nothing New Under The Sun!


 

Proposals to reduce the dominance of the "Big Four" accountancy firms and scrap the industry regulator have been unveiled by the government.

The theoretical aim is to improve regulatory standards after high profile corporate failures such as Carillion and BHS.

Also, company directors will face more responsibility to ensure accounts are accurate, or face tougher penalties.

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said the changes would help restore confidence in business.

There will now be a 16-week consultation on the proposals.

The BBC reports that the business of auditing companies' accounts, and ensuring they are a fair reflection of their financial health, is dominated by four accountancy firms: KPMG, Deloitte, PwC and EY.

However, there is concern that providing both accountancy and auditing services creates a conflict of interest.

Under the new rules, large companies would be required to use smaller auditing firms to conduct part of their annual audit, in an attempt to dilute the Big Four's dominance.

The new proposals would require KPMG, Deloitte, PwC and EY to make their audits more rigorous.

They could face a cap on the number of companies on the FTSE 350 index they may audit, if those improvements don't go far enough.

The government said last year almost a third of audits inspected on the FTSE 350 were in need of improvement.

All of this is rather amusing, given that when I was studying to be an FCA (back in the late 80's) these issues were very much "hot topic" issues at the time.

Seemingly nothing changes, no matter what regulatory shake-ups occur!

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Thursday, February 18, 2021

ICAEW Recruiting Full-time #VAT and Duties Manager

 


The Tax Faculty is recruiting

The Tax Faculty is recruiting for a full-time VAT and Duties manager to lead on our work in the areas of both VAT and an expanding portfolio covering Customs Duties and international trade.

The VAT and Duties Manager role involves two aspects. Firstly, the management of ICAEW's policy and reputational work in these areas, which are overseen by the Tax Faculty's VAT & Duties Committee. Secondly, the production of high quality member services in these areas which will include presentations, webinars and the authoring of guidance notes etc.

This is an important role sitting right at the heart of the Tax Faculty’s activities. We would expect that the successful applicant will have a professional qualification and have detailed experience of VAT.

In addition, the role has been expanded to cover the growing importance in our work of customs duties and international trade related issues. While existing knowledge of the latter would be advantageous, we would welcome applications from suitable specialists who can display a determination to learn and upskill in this area as the UK moves to establish an independent trading policy. 

The faculty is seeking a full-time, permanent staff member based in London, but is willing to be flexible for the right person. Salary is c£70,000 FTE. Download a copy of the role profile, 

If you believe that you have the skills and experience we are seeking for this important role, please send your CV and a covering letter to hrapplications@icaew.com.

The closing date is 26 February 2021.

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Friday, February 12, 2021

KPMG Goes Into Meltdown - #MoanGate

 


The fallout from Bill Michael's (UK Chairman of KPMG) #MoanGate video continues.

The Telegraph reports that relationships at the top of the firm became so toxic under Bill Michael that it was forced to pay for an external coach to sit in on meetings to ensure senior managers would be civil towards each other, according to insiders.

KPMG's leaders were also asked to hand over their phones to investigators trying to root out the source of suspected leaks as the firm’s reputation took a battering over regulatory probes, alleged bullying and aggressive cost cutting, sources said.  

Unsurprisingly he has now resigned. Bina Mehta has stepped in as acting chairman, and Mary O'Connor has taken over Michael's day-to-day executive responsibilities as acting senior partner.

A pretty poor state of affairs by anyone's standards, and not how the firm used to be run when I was a member of staff in the late 1980's!

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Wednesday, February 10, 2021

"Stop Moaning" - Message To Staff From KPMG Chairman

KPMG’s UK chairman, Bill Michael, has come in for heavy criticism after he told staff to ‘stop moaning’ about their working conditions during the lockdown.

In a virtual meeting with around 500 staff Michael reportedly told staff to ‘stop moaning’ and to ‘stop playing the victim card’. They had raised concerns about pension contributions, pay and bonuses. Questions were also asked about the ranking system of staff performance – from best to worse.

A Financial Times story revealed that Michael later apologised for his choice of words. He told the paper: 

“I am sorry for the words I used, which did not reflect what I believe in, and I have apologised to my colleagues. Looking after the wellbeing of our people and creating a culture where everyone can thrive is of critical importance to me and is at the heart of everything we do as a firm.”

KPMG wasn't like that in my day!

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Thursday, February 04, 2021

Which of The Big Four Accountancy Firms Broke Lockdown?

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Having a Solar Protect Tax Investigation Insurance policy at your disposal means that should you be one of the many 1000's of businesses or individuals that are selected by HMRC each year to look into your tax affairs your own accountant (your tax return agent) can get on and defend you robustly.

You have the peace of mind knowing that your accountant's (your tax return agent) fees will be paid by the insurance without any Excess for you to find.

Tax Investigation Insurance is an insurance policy that will fully reimburse your accountants (your tax return agent) fees up to £100,000 if you are subject to enquiry by or dispute with HMRC.

A Solar Protect policy will enable your Accountant (your tax return agent) to:
  • Deal with any correspondence from HMRC
  • Attend any meeting with HMRC
  • Appeal to the First-tier Tribunal or Upper Tribunal
  • Having the security of knowing that fees will be met in full will enable your Accountant (your tax return agent) to defend your position robustly

Please click here for details.

Friday, January 22, 2021

Good Luck #ICAEWStudents

Tax Investigation Insurance

Having a Solar Protect Tax Investigation Insurance policy at your disposal means that should you be one of the many 1000's of businesses or individuals that are selected by HMRC each year to look into your tax affairs your own accountant (your tax return agent) can get on and defend you robustly.

You have the peace of mind knowing that your accountant's (your tax return agent) fees will be paid by the insurance without any Excess for you to find.

Tax Investigation Insurance is an insurance policy that will fully reimburse your accountants (your tax return agent) fees up to £100,000 if you are subject to enquiry by or dispute with HMRC.

A Solar Protect policy will enable your Accountant (your tax return agent) to:
  • Deal with any correspondence from HMRC
  • Attend any meeting with HMRC
  • Appeal to the First-tier Tribunal or Upper Tribunal
  • Having the security of knowing that fees will be met in full will enable your Accountant (your tax return agent) to defend your position robustly

Please click here for details.

Wednesday, January 06, 2021

ICAEW Summarises Brexit

Tax Investigation Insurance

Having a Solar Protect Tax Investigation Insurance policy at your disposal means that should you be one of the many 1000's of businesses or individuals that are selected by HMRC each year to look into your tax affairs your own accountant (your tax return agent) can get on and defend you robustly.

You have the peace of mind knowing that your accountant's (your tax return agent) fees will be paid by the insurance without any Excess for you to find.

Tax Investigation Insurance is an insurance policy that will fully reimburse your accountants (your tax return agent) fees up to £100,000 if you are subject to enquiry by or dispute with HMRC.

A Solar Protect policy will enable your Accountant (your tax return agent) to:
  • Deal with any correspondence from HMRC
  • Attend any meeting with HMRC
  • Appeal to the First-tier Tribunal or Upper Tribunal
  • Having the security of knowing that fees will be met in full will enable your Accountant (your tax return agent) to defend your position robustly

Please click here for details.