Dame Barbara Mills has worked on some of the most high-profile fraud cases in
recent history, battled with bureaucracy at the Inland Revenue and led the Crown
Prosecution Service. She has never been scared of a challenge during her
distinguished career and her latest job, involving a shake-up of auditing
regulation, is no exception.
Dame Barbara was last week appointed chair of the Professional Oversight
Board, the unit responsible for UK audit regulation within the Financial
Reporting Council, the UK’s regulator for corporate governance and reporting.
She replaces Sir John Bourn, who earlier this year announced that he would step
down from the role after serving more than two full terms.
What happens next?
Dame Barbara will become chair of POB on 1 October. Sir John will continue to
act as an adviser to the FRC.
Her first big test will be overseeing a change in the way audit firms are
inspected. Later this year the FRC’s Audit Inspection Unit will publish
‘high-level reports’ on the audit firms.
Some of the big accounting firms raised concerns that inspection reforms
could lead to their clients being identified and lead to a ‘feeding frenzy’ of
requests for more detailed information on the AIU’s private reports. However,
the AIU has reassured firms that client confidentiality won’t be breached under
the new inspection regime.
Dame Barbara’s glittering CV includes being the first female Director of
Public Prosecutions, director of the Serious Fraud Office, and latterly
Adjudicator for Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs. She has dealt with several
financial fraud cases, including BCCI and Guinness.
Career low points include resigning as head of the Crown Prosecution Service
amid criticism over the service’s effectiveness.
She has also had an uphill struggle as adjudicator for HMRC when dealing with
thousands of public complaints about the Revenue’s unwieldy and complicated tax
However, former colleagues reckon Dame Barbara has the right experience and
personality a combination of charm and steel — to steer the POB through a
Chris Dickson, executive counsel of the JDS, the accounting regulator, who
worked with Dame Barbara at the SFO, described her as ‘charming and open
‘What I liked about her was that she had an open door policy and was happy to
talk to anyone,’ he told Accountancy Age. ‘She was very informal but we
always knew she was in charge.’
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