Discipline - Auditors rapped on pension work
More than 130 auditors are awaiting the results of disciplinary investigations into breaches relating to pension accounts, as accountants increasingly fall foul of new laws governing pensions.
The Occupational Pensions Regulatory Agency revealed last week that it had reported 141 auditors to their professional bodies.
Most of the complaints were referred to the English ICA’s professional standards office, but ‘a handful’ related to ACCA and Scots ICA auditors, said Opra chairman John Hayes.
Matthew Ives, director of the English institute’s professional standards office, said Opra was the largest single source of complaints in the past year. The surge in the number of complaints is a result of the Pensions Act 1995, which stipulates that pension-fund accounts must be audited within seven months of their year ends.
The first wave of referrals will go to the institute’s investigation committee in August, said Ives. Although the committee faced a deluge of Opra reports based on the same technical breach, the committee would treat them all with its usual arrangements, he added.
Tom McMorrow, head of legal services at the Scots ICA, said its investigating committee had looked into around ‘a dozen’ Opra complaints about breaches of the Pensions Act.
Most of the auditors investigated by the Scots institute had been unaware of the seven-month deadline set out in the Pensions Act, said McMorrow. No further action has been taken against them, but the cases will be revisited if the firms concerned commit any further breaches under the Pensions Act.
‘The seven-month audit deadline is an early warning mechanism that is not being complied with,’ said McMorrow. ‘It is important that auditors understand that we attach the same importance as Opra does.’
ACCA said that one of its members had been reported and that the firm involved received a confidential warning three months ago.
REQUIREMENTS OF PENSIONS ACT 1995
*Trustees must obtain accounts within seven months of the year-end, showing a true-and-fair view of financial transactions.
*Auditors must state whether the requirements of the Act’s audited accounts regulations have been met.
*Auditors should state in their opinion whether contributions have been paid in accordance with the scheme’s payment schedule.
*Qualification of either the financial reports or statement of contributions should be reported to the regulatory agency, Opra.
*Auditors must report to Opra any evidence that comes to their attention of behaviour that constitutes a breach of the regulations.