News in Brief – 26 March

ACCA boasts huge surplus

Last year saw a strengthening of ACCA’s financial position, with a 40% increase in the value of the association’s net assets and a #600,000 operating surplus, according to the association’s annual review 1997. ACCA intends to use the firm base which the surplus provides to make substantial investments in IT systems. ACCA chief executive Anthea Rose said: One of the key features of our future strategy is to harness the technology of the future.’

IFA criticises PFI standards

The Accounting Standards Board’s (ASB) proposed financial reporting standards on the private finance initiative (PFI) are ‘fundamentally flawed’, according to the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries. ‘The key problem is the exposure draft seeks to separate the assets and service elements of a PFI contract. A spokeswoman for the ASB said: ‘The jury is out on the proposals. The responses are still being analysed.’

Man from ICI ignites wife

A West Midlands accountant has been jailed for seven years for setting his wife on fire. Trevor Eames, financial administration manager at ICI in Solihull, threw petrol on his wife Ursula and ignited her with a cigarette lighter as she packed her bags to leave him. Eames said he had been driven over the edge after seeing his wife and her lover embracing in her car. He was found guilty by Warwick Crown Court of grievous bodily harm with intent.

Bourne praises sports council

Comptroller and Auditor General Sir John Bourn congratulated the English sports council last week on its management of the distribution of funds. The council used #648m of National Lottery funds to give 2,248 awards between 1994 and 1997 which, he said, represented a significant change in the scale of the council’s operations.

IIA highlights need for audit

The UK Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA) is calling for an independent committee to audit local authority accounts. The IIA wants authorities to consider recommendations from an accounts and audit regulations paper published in 1996, which highlighted the need for an adequate and effective system of internal audit.

PW gets #4m for clean up

Troubled DIY retailer Wickes paid auditor Price Waterhouse over #4m following the discovery that staff had colluded with suppliers to inflate sales figures and retain their bonuses. According to the company’s accounts for the year ended December 1997, after Arthur Andersen resigned the audit, PW received over #3.3m for its investigation into the affair and #530,000 on top of its audit fee of #240,000.

Halifax hits ‘leaker’

The Halifax, the country’s biggest mortgage lender, has launched an investigation into the activities of an accounts operative who is accused of obtaining sensitive financial information. Duncan Townend, who denied he had passed on the information to a third party, has been suspended pending a disciplinary action.

Call for extra tax to the NHS

Ex-Treasury minister and former Commons Public Accounts Committee chairman Robert Sheldon has urged the government to consider a special National Health Service tax to pay for medical provision, despite his general dislike of hypothecation. Speaking in the Commons Budget debate, he said people might be more willing to pay extra tax if they could see it going directly to pay for the rising cost of the NHS rather than disappearing into the Treasury’s general coffers.

AA measures will reap little

Scottish Provident has accused the chancellor of mounting a ‘misguided attack’ on the life-insurance industry in his Budget measures against tax loopholes in offshore life assurance. It says the Revenue will gain little from these changes, which include anti-avoidance measures against personal portfolio bonds, in 1998/1999 and will only make #30m by April 2000.

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