Leader – Time to come clean on results

For a profession whose very name is the root of the word accountability, accountants have a poor record when it comes to being open about themselves.

Never is this truer than when it comes to the publication of the financial results of their firms. With a handful of honourable exceptions, most of the figures are at best partial and at worst deliberately misleading.

Some firms like to imply that all of this attention to figures is rather unseemly. Off the record, they argue that it is a private matter, something to be discussed over the boardroom table by the partners. Others say that to publish their results would be to invite misleading comparisons. Firms which once audited FTSE-100 companies, now lost to the Big Six, can be heard saying they never really wanted the business in the first place and that owner-managed businesses have always been their true core area.

But the one group which is very interested to know how the firms stand are the clients. It is they who seek out the league tables as the only hard information in a blizzard of self-serving publicity material.

Ultimately it will be the firms which do not provide clear figures that will lose business. After years of being told by their accountants that they must disclose painful truths in their own accounts, clients will not place their business with firms who manifestly refuse to take their own medicine.

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