Auditors should police UK plc finances

Finance directors have resolutely backed the idea that auditors should take on more responsibility for policing UK business finances.

In a survey which follows the shocking revelations from Andersen, auditor of failed energy giant Enron, 65% of FDs backed the idea of auditors going further to ensure the integrity of business finances in Britain.

In response to the latest Accountancy Age/Reed Accountancy Personnel’s Big Question, one FD even went so far as to say more action was needed because ‘the audit opinion isn’t worth the paper it’s written on’.

Andersen has admitted an ‘error in judgement’ in dealing with the Enron audit and shredding documents relevant to the company after the US Securities and Exchange Commission began an investigation into the affair.

But the feelings of UK FDs about audit are running high following Enron’s $80bn collapse and the Andersen confessions.

David Tickle, FD of Gray (London) Ltd, said: ‘People should be accountable for what they do. There should be jail sentences for such severe cases.’

One anonymous FD said: ‘Auditors put themselves up there as being judge of the rest of us… so they need to be accountable and more pro-active.

There is still a conflict of interest between audit and non-audit work which needs to be resolved.’

Just 23% of FDs felt auditors should not have more responsibility. Nigel Colin, finance director at Tennents Group, said: ‘An auditor should be a watchdog not a bloodhound.’

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