Letters – 26 November

Do you wanna be in my gang?

In Accountancy Age of 10 September, the article ‘Big Five deny collusion claims in advisory work’ refers to the protest by the banks about alleged collusion by the Big Five.

I cannot comment on this. But, I have helped several small companies with financial restructuring and I am always impressed by the uniformity of contract terms offered by the major banks on loans to small companies.

The substance of the contract conditions is identical from bank to bank, and on occasion even some parts of the wording are identical. I have always assumed that an unwritten cartel operates.

Is it possible that major banks, acting independently and without collusion, can reach an identical end product? If so, why should they doubt that the Big Five can do the same?

Peter J Chadwick, Grasscroft, Oldham

Rentokil has double vision,/b> Having read your front page exclusive (12 November) on Rentokil Initial’s attitude to prompt payment, some readers might expect the company’s finance director to reconsider his membership of the Better Practice Management Group.

They could argue that by operating Rentokil’s policy while occupying a seat on this government-sponsored forum, Christopher Pearce is being inconsistent and could be seen to be setting double standards. In fact, by maintaining his company’s 60-day payment terms, compared with the legislative yardstick of 30 days, he is being entirely consistent, at least in his setting of double standards.

Dave Sharp, Wrenthorpe, Wakefield

Poor image of late payers Most would agree that nothing pleases more than being paid and paid on time. And nothing angers more than having payment withheld or delayed (particularly on specious grounds). So it is with suppliers.

A company that witholds payment is saying either ‘We cannot pay, because we are incompetent business people’, or ‘We can pay but choose not to, because we are dishonest’.

Section 1 of the Theft Act defines fraud as ‘obtaining pecuniary advantage by deception’. Keeping money in the bank to earn interest on it and then keeping the interest is therefore by definition fraudulent, and brands the company accordingly.

There is probably no more cost-effective way of generating genuine, long-term goodwill than consistently paying at least the smaller, local supplier on time, and where necessary deliberately early (the GECs of this world can look after themselves).

Conversely, there is probably no more effective way of doing permanent damage to a company’s reputation than by using every excuse to avoid paying suppliers on time.

Companies spend millions on PR, yet just don’t seem to realise the damage they do to their image by being ‘less than honest’ on payment, for that is the way it comes across. However unfairly, a view rapidly forms that ‘once dishonest, always dishonest’.

Conversely, considerable potential also exists for building up real long-term goodwill and respect for the company by making special efforts to ensure suppliers are consistently paid on time; and where appropriate to help specific suppliers, early.

BCJ Warnes, managing director, Business Dynamics Limited, London

Walk to help cure cancer Following the recent controversy in your pages over the Walk the Walk event, your readers might be interested to learn that since its inception less than two years ago, Walk the Walk has raised more than #150,000 for breast cancer research.

To have raised such a sum in such a short period of time is a testament to the courage and enthusiasm – not to mention stamina – of all the women who have taken part.

Breast cancer is a devastating disease, causing the deaths of over 1,000 women a month; that doesn’t mean that raising money to fight the disease can’t be fun. Many of the women involved in Walk the Walk have either had breast cancer themselves or are close friends and family of people with breast cancer.

We intend to keep the fun in our fundraising and our focus on beating the disease.

If anyone is interested in finding out more about Breakthrough Breast Cancer’s work or our fundraising activities, please give us a call on 0171 405 5111.

Ros Wynne, finance director, Breakthrough Breast Cancer

Screening for men needed Just an additional note to the debate about cancer that Accountancy Age is having at the moment. More men die from prostate cancer per year (about double) than women die from all female cancers such as ovarian, uterine, cervical and breast cancers.

So why has the government not set up a screening programme for prostate cancer as it has for breast and cervical cancers?

Tom Gorman, t_gorman

Keep out the fraudsters In Accountancy Age (29 October 1998) the subject of fraud rears its ugly head a number of times. In fact, fraud is making increasingly frequent appearances in headlines across the nation.

Although specific estimates vary, the experts all agree that fraud is costing UK businesses millions of pounds each year and that the problem is getting worse.

Understandably, business managers are devoting considerable resources to protecting their companies. They are tightening internal controls, investing in IT security and sharpening their focus on risk management.

Ironically, in their rush to stay ahead of the increasingly complex ways of committing fraud, they seem to have overlooked a very simple point: people, not systems, procedures, or computers, commit fraud.

Every case of fraud has something in common: the fraudster, a dishonest person who chooses to take advantage of a situation for his or her unscrupulous personal benefit. The evidence suggests that more and more often, this person is an employee.

So why don’t business managers exercise the same care in recruiting their employees as they do in selecting their IT systems? Auditors wouldn’t think of diving into an assignment without reading previous audit reports, but managers often conduct second interviews without reading the notes from the first.

Managers are often tasked with recruiting for their teams without even the most basic interview training. People are sometimes recruited without being properly screened and vetted, and companies are paying the price.

Employees are one of the greatest assets of any company but they can also be one of the greatest risks.

David Hughes, managing director, Executive Connections, London

Related reading

aidan-brennan kpmg