Customs loses its taste for accountants.

Customs & Excise has watered down plans to hire qualified and experienced accountants to top management posts.

A scathing report by former Deloitte & Touche partner John Roques into losses of #668m through fraudulent diversion of duty-free alcohol recommended appointing a finance director with relevant experience to hold overall responsibility for both analysis and accounting of revenue to promote control and stewardship of costs.

Roques said the post should be supported by a financial controller, also a qualified accountant. Instead, customs favours a ‘modified approach’ – an expansion of the role of principal finance officer, with no indication of a requirement for a professional qualification.

The officer will be responsible for the department’s 260-strong accountancy service, of which only 15 are qualified accountants.

A ‘suitably qualified accounting adviser’ will be recruited from the private sector.

The justification, according to a report by the National Audit Office, is that ‘the role of principal finance officer requires an in-depth understanding of public sector finances as well as accounting skills’.

A longer version of this story is at

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