Rover probe sparks call to review investigations

Emile Woolf, Kingston Smith

Emile Woolf, Kingston Smith

Full-scale investigations into failed companies should be reviewed, a senior
forensic investigator has said, as the fallout from the ongoing and costly MG
Rover probe grows.

‘The MG Rover investigation costs, with all the hotel bills and
disbursements, have gone into orbit. The impression is that it’s just a free
ride,’ said Emile Woolf of Kingston Smith, who has led investigations, including
work for the Serious Fraud Office.

Last week Accountancy Age revealed that the costs of the Rover
investigation have so far reached more than £11m. This included £95,094 on hotel
costs, with a further £29,279 on subsistence incurred by the BDO Stoy Hayward
team leading the enquiry.
The last major investigation into a company, into TransTec, also lasted three
years, but at a cost of just £3.5m.

‘Their [DBERR] approach to investigations definitely needs a review. I
haven’t personally done work for the department, but others in my firm have and
we always work within rational constraints.

‘That means you have to agree with those instructing on the case, the volume
that is needed, the scope of the investigation, the likely termination point
and, of course, the question of costs.

‘DTI investigations were at one stage notoriously lengthy. They used to drag
on for years until there was a great public outcry because by the time they
reported back on these cases, the interests of natural justice had been
defeated. This is because those with the case hanging over their necks had been
living in shadow for so long that it was believed you couldn’t really prosecute
them,’ said Woolf.

The MG Rover team have not issued an interim report, a move that has also
raised eyebrows.

‘There always has been an interim report in the past,’ Woolf said.

DBERR this week could not confirm whether an overall review would be held
into the way in which they commissioned enquiries.

‘At the end of all investigations, DBERR completes a review of the
investigation processes and seeks to establish lessons to be learned for
inclusion in best practice guidance for the future,’ a spokesman said.

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