News in brief.

An overwhelming 83% of accountancy firms worldwide said they were not in favour of audit-only practices in a survey released this week. According to Summit International – the international umbrella for independent accounting firms – the majority are in favour of offering a range of services on top of audit. Only firms in Latin America were in favour of the ‘vanilla only’ approach (56%). Geoff Barnes, Summit CEO, said: ‘Members believe they can and should offer their clients more than just counting beans – they want to juggle them, too.’

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More than 3,000 small and medium-sized practices have been brought together under one international brand, Ran One. The venture has been based on the Results Accountants’ Network and will focus on allowing regional firms to serve SME clients. ‘We’re not talking consolidation of accounting firms. Ran One is more about working together to achieve goals vital in the SME marketplace,’ said Ran One chairman and CEO Jim McKerlie.

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Results from preliminary investigations into revenue figures at have led the online video games company to contact the Fraud Squad. Early findings from the probe have found ‘substantial overstatement of registered users, page impressions and revenues,’ according to a stock exchange announcement. Investigators from Cap Gemini, Ernst & Young and PricewaterhouseCoopers found that, based solely on information from sales agencies, revenues for the 23 months to 30 June 2000, were approximately #130,000, not the #1.8m stated in the company reports. PwC, the company’s auditor, would not comment other than to confirm it was involved in the investigation.

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KPMG is being taken to the High Court after allegedly failing to pay Angela Mortimer for staff. The employment agency claims KPMG has failed to pay personnel placement fees and fees for temporary staff owed for last year, according to a High Court writ. Mortimer is seeking a total of #44,915.52 as well as interest running at #27.31 a day. Nigel Owen and Co, of Bromley Lane, Chislehurst, issued the writ.

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An internal memo circulated among PricewaterhouseCoopers’ consultancy partners and leaked to the Sunday Times has criticised the firm’s management style and strategic direction. The letter, understood to be around two months’ old, was written by PwC’s head of management consultancy services, Lynton Barker. He accused the firm of having ‘haphazard, poor and inconsistent’ communications. He suggested a new leadership structure, and called for a meeting to take place to address PwC’s weakening economic position and failing morale. PwC declined to comment.

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Mapeley, a consortium of 10 companies and financiers, has won the right to own and manage the estates of the Inland Revenue and Customs & Excise for the next 20 years. The winning consortium is headed by Soros Real Estate, a property company owned by billionaire financier George Soros. Mapeley will take over the responsibility of running 600 buildings scattered throughout the UK, totalling 1.5m square metres, in the biggest PFI yet.

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Grant Thornton’s executive committee in the US has recommended Dom Esposito, executive partner and chief executive officer, step down due to differences over the firm’s direction. Edward E Nusbaum will act as interim executive partner until the firm finds an internal replacement for Esposito. Appointed executive partner in February 1999, Esposito has presided over a period of record growth and high-profile achievements at the firm. The change will not affect the firm’s UK arm due to the organisation’s structure.

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Two North American companies are in the running to win the contract for a one-stop electronic shopping mall set to revolutionise the multi-billion local government procurement market. MacDonald Dettwiler Associates, a British Columbia-based company and eGovernment Solution head up consortia bidding to run ‘IdeaMarketplace’. The preferred bidder will be announced on March 19.

For more technology stories, see page 12; analysis, page 25.

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