Protecting the auditor, but from whom?

Obviously, there are questions over the various rights or wrongs of the action that Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty took against Deloitte last year, and the action that it promises to take against Hugh Scott, once the auditor is found.

But attempts by Huntingdon and Hugh Scott to avoid action have raised questions about the accountability and transparency of the audit process.

It is entirely understandable that Hugh Scott wants to remain undetected, given the treatment Deloitte received and the current suffering of Huntingdon’s clients, but is it doing right by the scientists’ shareholders?

Not only has SHAC so far been unable to find the firm, but it has also suggested that Hugh Scott may actually be acting as a buffer for a larger firm that undertook the audit.

Either way, the issue remains that the auditor is not contactable, except by those in the know, and they definitely won’t be telling anyone. It would certainly be interesting to see what would happen if any issues were raised over the accounts or the audit.

As the firm has been approved by the PCAOB, it must be held to some kind of account, but there appears to be no transparency in the process at the moment.

Following the loss of confidence in the auditors due to Enron and WorldCom fiascos, the word transparency has been on the lips of everyone in the accounting world.

Many observers will see this move by Huntingdon and Hugh Scott as a step back after the great strides made by the profession in the last couple of years.

Obviously the circumstance is an extreme one, but this may not be the right solution to the problem.

City institutions, such as the NAPF, have already begun moves to tackle the issue, with some advising those in the firing line to hold firm

But it may be that this is a problem that really needs government intervention to see true results.

  • Paul Grant is senior reporter of Accountancy Age.

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