Ethics Board questions auditor independence

In a consultation paper ‘Setting the Agenda for Ethics’ launched today with the aim of debating issues raised by the collapse of the US’ seventh largest listed company, the ESB poses the perennial questions.

Questions raised include: ‘Can company auditors ever be truly independent while they are effectively appointed and reappointed by the directors on the advice of management? Can an accounting firm provide non-audit services to an audit client without impinging on auditor independence?’

Christopher Jonas, chairman of ESB, said: ‘ESB is undertaking this consultation to help it understand public expectations in this area. ESB is not yet making specific proposals for changing the ethical standards of accountants.

Jonas added: ‘It should not be assumed that whatever lessons are to be learned in the USA will have direct relevance here.’

The paper will be sent out to a broad spectrum of interested parties in the debate, including MPs, finance directors of the UK’s leading companies, as well as accountants in industry, practice, business and the public sector.

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