News in Brief – 12 March

Atlantic audit results due

Former partners of Spicer & Pegler, now part of Deloitte & Touche, embroiled in the Atlantic Computers crash in 1989, will find out next week if the Joint Disciplinary Scheme has found their audit to be negligent. Atlantic was a subsidiary of FTSE 100 company British & Commonwealth, which went on to collapse under the weight of leasing debts built up by Atlantic.

Tax dispute goes to police

Self-employed technical designer Stefan Gamble last week asked the special commissioners to refer the Inland Revenue’s Goole office to the police for criminal investigation over its handling of his 13-year tax dispute. If he succeeds, it would call into question the principle of Crown immunity, where the police traditionally decline to investigate another branch of the Crown services, said Gamble. A decision is expected within six weeks.

Councils turn to charities

Cost-cutting efforts have forced many councils to turn heritage maintenance over to charities. Simon Randall, head of Lawrence Graham’s local and public authority unit, said local councils could make ‘significant savings’. Councils said the cost and problems of maintenance would be overcome by transferring to charities or non-profit-making organisations, providing access to private sector, community and National Lottery funding.

Pension fund in deficit

A potential #600m deficit of the pension fund of former water board staff was revealed by the National Audit Office yesterday. A report to Parliament said the deficit was up to #120m when privatisation took place in 1989 and worsened to #478m by March 1997. The fund was administered by the National Rivers Authority, now the Environment Agency. The NAO urged public bodies to learn ‘a number of lessons’, including the need to ensure they have sufficient skills to fulfil obligations.

Scots suspend brawling IP

The Scots ICA has suspended Tom Dyer, an insolvency practitioner and former racehorse trainer from Dundee, from membership for three years. Dyer was also fined #5,000 with #18,000 costs for resisting the institute’s investigations, accepting appointment as a bankruptcy trustee when forbidden by professional ethics and lying to a debtor’s solicitor. The institute also found he attacked a former colleague and tampered with a liquidation contract in a bid to limit his liability.

Audit advice for Scots

The government has set up a group to advise the Scottish Parliament on financial issues, including independent audit and preparation of accounts. Robert Black, controller of audit at the Accounts Commission and Martin Pfleger, assistant auditor general at the National Audit Office, will join the 12-strong group.

MP calls for bribe inquiry

Ministers have been urged to give auditors responsibility for assessing the scale of commissions following fears of bribes being paid to secure overseas contracts. Labour MP Gordon Prentice told the Commons he feared commissions of up to 25% were being paid to intermediaries in Middle East arms deals.

Eruo baffles small business

The majority of small businesses in the UK are not prepared for the euro, according to a survey by the European Accountancy Federation and ACCA. The report claims 86% of small businesses are ‘a long way down the ladder in readiness for the single currency.’ ACCA expressed concern about UK companies’ unreadiness for the euro and warned they need to prepare now.

New head for Nesta

Former Coopers & Lybrand partner Jeremy Newton has been appointed by Culture Secretary Chris Smith to head the new National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts, which will receive #200m from the National Lottery.

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