The disciplinary body for accountants has won its first case in a
disciplinary tribunal after bringing a complaint against Belfast firm McClure
The complaint from the Accountancy and Actuarial Discipline Board (AADB) was
brought over its audit work on Emerging Business Trust (EBT), a publicly-funded
body set up in 1996 to provide start-up capital to small firms in Northern
McClure Watters was alleged to have been slow to uncover bad debt within EBT,
and the AADB told the tribunal that ‘there were aspects of the audit work that
left a lot to be desired’. The firm accepted the criticisms of its work, though
the Tribunal’s chairman Anthony Evans did accept that McClure had been lied to
by its client.
The tribunal accepted a ‘carecraft agreement’ signed by the AADB and McClure,
which in effect saw the firm admit its failings and agree a level of sanction
with the AADB. The full conclusion to the case is expected to be published by
the Tribunal after Christmas. However, the AADB confirmed partner Rollo McClure
was fined £6,000 and reprimanded. McClure Watters was fined an additional £6,000
and ordered to pay costs of £60,000.
The complaints related to the audits of EBT accounts for the years 30
September 1998 to 30 September 2002 and the accounts of the EBT venture fund
for the year ending 30 September 2001.
Michael and Teresa Townsley, directors of MTF Chartered Accountants, the firm
that managed EBT and its fund, are currently under separate investigation for
their roles in the company’s collapse.
The case was brought following EBT’s liquidation in 2005. A number of
separate investigations took place into EBT’s affairs before and after its
collapse, including a PwC investigation into bad debts the company ran up.
Executive counsel for the AADB, Cameron Scott, said after the hearing he was
satisfied with the way in which the case has been handled. ‘Once we’d done the
investigation we wrote to the firm concerned and told them what we had found
and asked whether they accepted the criticisms,’ he said. ‘They quibbled with a
few things but, by and large, accepted those criticisms. I think it was a
responsible way to deal with the case and it’s nice to get a successful
The conclusion is in marked contrast to the AADB’s previous case, that of
Mayflower, which the AADB lost. That landed the board with a legal bill of £1m.
Scott agreed that the collaborative approach taken in this case represented the
best way of conducting future cases where possible.
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