PricewaterhouseCoopers is at the centre of a row at the Scottish Parliament after concerns arose over a perceived conflict of interest with some of the firm's auditing and consultancy work.
The issue emerged following the disclosure that PwC, which assessed the Scottish Executive’s report into private prisons, is also auditor to Group 4, the part owner of Premier Prisons who privately run Kilmarnock prison.
The two roles have prompted the Scottish Nationalist Party to claim PwC was suffering a ‘conflict of interest’ and that the prison report could not therefore have been ‘independently’ verified as claimed by Jim Wallace, Scotland’s justice minister and deputy first minister.
Michael Matheson, SNP shadow deputy justice minister, said: ‘This latest revelation totally destroys Jim Wallace’s claim that this was an independent review.
Matheson added that the credibility of the Scottish executive’s prison study now lay ‘in tatters’.
But, appearing before Scotland’s justice committee on 23 May, PwC partner Paul Brewer said: ‘It is well established and we make it clear that PricewaterhouseCoopers is actively engaged in advising the government and the private sector on PPP contracts, among many other things.’
Crucially however, Group 4 only became part owner of Premier Prisons on 8 March following its acquisition of the US company Wackenhut. The acquisition happened several months after PwC was appointed to assess the Executive’s report.