PracticeAuditA moral dilemma

A moral dilemma

This week I have been faced with a moral dilemma. The second stage of our audit took place, and of the original team of two dispatched from our auditor in Yorkshire to spend a week with us last month, one of them returned for a few days.

I should explain that I had been very impressed with this young lady.

She had a great personality, very good interpersonal skills, but despite the ease with which she fitted into our London office (we number some 15 people evenly spread over ages ranging from 24 to 54), she still proved to be a diligent and methodical auditor.

Her grasp of our business was excellent – I never had to repeat myself twice – and she tracked down and sorted out every little discrepancy on the trail balance that previous auditors had never bothered with.

It helped that this year we had a new audit firm. For the past 15 or so years we have been using a one-man band, but recently decided to abandon ship and sign up with a much bigger firm, with much better seniors.

The moral dilemma is this. Up until now we have never employed a full-time finance professional, the job being done, internally, by my partner, the bookkeeper and myself. Our audit senior finished her exams this summer and seemed so thorough, and fitted in so well, that we are tempted to offer her a job.

We wouldn’t be the first company to steal someone good away from our audit firm, and I am sure we wouldn’t be the last. But is this really an acceptable way to behave? Consider the facts.

We negotiated a fixed fee for the audit, and the firm have undoubtedly lost money on this, their first year in the job. This doesn’t keep me awake at night, as in future years they will undoubtedly make a lot of profit, plus they will get advisory fees as well. But should we really nick one of their best seniors?

This time, we have decided to desist. But given that (a) she is chronically underpaid, as are most audit seniors, and (b) has just qualified, I am sure she will leave anyway. Then we really will abandon our corporate conscience and offer her a job.

  • Heather MacGregor runs a small business.

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