“Audit sector faces inquiry as minister points to deficiencies”

Interesting to note that a large number of people in East Devon have been pointing out deficiencies in internal and external audit foy YEARS!

https://eastdevonwatch.org/2014/09/17/please-dont-take-our-external-auditor-away-why-we-like-him-and-our-ceo-wants-the-same-auditor-at-both-councils-where-he-works/

https://eastdevonwatch.org/2015/01/15/a-question-for-the-swap-internal-auditor/

https://eastdevonwatch.org/2016/11/19/external-auditors-not-best-placed-to-review-local-plan-duh/

“The government has called for a comprehensive review of Britain’s auditing industry in what could herald huge changes to a sector dominated by the firms known as the big four.

Calls for reform have grown after the collapse of the construction giant Carillion and the former high street stalwart BHS revealed serious inadequacies in the auditing process.

The business secretary, Greg Clark, said it was “right to learn the lessons and apply them without delay” as he ordered the inquiry into competition within the industry where Deloitte, PwC, Ernst & Young and KPMG audit 98% of the UK’s largest listed companies.

“The collapse of Carillion exposed deficiencies in an audit process, where the market is dominated by just four large firms,” Clark said, in an interview with the Financial Times.

He added: “We know competition is one of the key drivers for maintaining and improving standards, so I have asked the Competition and Markets Authority to consider looking again at what can be done to improve the audit sector.”

Thousands of jobs were lost following Carillion’s collapse in January, with a subsequent parliamentary report finding that Deloitte – which received £10m to be the outsourcing company’s internal auditor – had been either “unable or unwilling” to identify failings in financial controls, or “too readily ignored them”.

Ernst & Young was paid £10.8m for “six months of failed turnaround advice”. Elsewhere, PwC was fined £10m by the Financial Reporting Council (FRC) for signing off on the accounts of BHS, before its sale for £1. The retailer collapsed in 2016, prompting the loss of 11,000 jobs.

Frank Field, the chairman of the work and pensions committee, said poor business practices were “waved through by a cosy club of auditors, conflicted at every turn”.

The FRC has previously called for an inquiry into whether the big four should be broken up, with their audit divisions spun off. This year, Deloitte warned that such a measure could affect the UK’s standing as a global financial centre.

Labour welcomed the announcement, but claimed the Conservatives were “playing catch-up”. …”

https://www.theguardian.com/business/2018/sep/29/uk-mulls-audit-sector-reform-after-minister-admits-deficiencies

EDDC’s former auditors in hot water again

“Under-fire accounting giant KPMG was on Monday slapped with a £3 million fine by the industry watchdog for a “breach of ethical standards” over its audit of fashion brand Ted Baker.

The Financial Reporting Council said the firm, which admitted it was in the wrong, should not have provided expert witness services to Ted Baker in a court case while it was also handling its books in 2013 and 2014.

“This was in breach of the ethical standards and led to the loss of KPMG’s independence in respect of the audits,” the FRC said. “In addition, there was a self-interest threat arising from the fact that the fees for the expert engagement significantly exceeded the audit fees.”

The firm’s fine was reduced to £2.1 million for settling the case early, although the auditor was also landed with a £112,000 bill for costs.

Its senior auditor, Michael Barradell was fined £80,000, cut to £46,800 after he settled.

KPMG said: “Where there are lessons to be learned, we will learn them.” It added that since last year it no longer offers any expert witness work for any company it audits and stressed that the actual scrutiny of Ted Baker’s books has not been called into question. …”

Source: Evening Standard Business

EDDC’s recent external auditor facing fourth inquiry; regulator “feeble and timid”

“The accounting watchdog has launched an investigation into KPMG’s audit of Conviviality, the collapsed drinks and off-licence supplier.

It is the latest regulatory scrutiny into the Big Four firm, which is also under investigation over its audits of Carillion, Rolls-Royce and BNY Mellon.

The Financial Reporting Council has accused KPMG of an “unacceptable deterioration” in the quality of its audits and put its audits under special supervision. Last month it fined the firm £3.2 million for misconduct in its audits for Quindell, the insurance technology company. Pressure is increasing on KPMG and its competitors PWC, Deloitte and EY. Carillion and BHS shone a spotlight on the firms’ roles as both auditors and consultants to companies.

Conviviality, owner of the Bargain Booze and Wine Rack chains, collapsed into administration in April. It had been valued at more than £500 million in March but fell from grace after admitting that it had made an error in its forecasting and had found a £30 million tax bill due by the end of the month. It had 4,000 employees and 760 stores. Almost 2,000 jobs were saved when C&C acquired the wholesale business from the administrator. Bestway bought the retail business. The FRC is looking at financial statements for Conviviality in the year to the end of April 2017.

A spokesman for KPMG said: “We believe we conducted our audit appropriately. As reported by the company, it experienced margin weakness at the start of 2018 and also a significant payment to HMRC which had not been included within its short-term cash-flow projections, creating a short-term funding requirement.”

The FRC said that it would also investigate a member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales over the preparation and approval of Conviviality’s financial statements but did not name the individual.

This investigation comes as the FRC, the ICAEW, and the industry-backed Audit Quality Forum prepare to launch a government-backed review that will consider the effectiveness of the existing model for auditing. They are looking for an independent business leader to lead the review.

Bill Michael, who took over as head of KPMG UK in September, supports a review. “The profession needs to be re-evaluated, otherwise we run the risk of eroding trust,” he told The Times . “We can’t have a profession that isn’t trusted. It has consequences for society and the capital markets. You only need one bad apple to lose trust in the system.”

KPMG UK employs 15,000 partners and staff, 3,600 of whom work in its audit practice. Its tax consulting, deal advisory, management and risk consulting practices have grown in recent years and now employ about 7,500 staff.

The FRC is the subject of a parliament-led review which is expected to overhaul how the FRC works and shake up the accountancy profession. MPs looking at Carillion’s collapse accused regulators of being “feeble and timid”.”

Source: Times (pay wall)

“KPMG singled out in critical report on audit industry”

KPMG were, until recently, the auditors of East Devon District Council. Let’s hope that Grant Thornton (now back in the frame at EDDC) perform better – but who recalls their pitiful performance when they “investigated” the disgraced Councillor Graham Brown affair and found ….. nothing.

“KPMG, the accounting firm that signed off the books in the years leading up to Carillion’s collapse, has been singled out by the industry regulator in a report that says the overall quality of the audit profession is in decline.

The Financial Reporting Council, the watchdog for the UK’s accountants, said the profession had demonstrated a “failure to challenge management and show appropriate scepticism across their audits”.

There have been calls for the “big four” accountants – KPMG, PricewaterhouseCoopers, EY and Deloitte – to be broken up to spur competition and improve standards.

All four gave Carillion financial advice before the construction and outsourcing company failed. MPs accused the four of “feasting” on Carillion, whose finances proved far less healthy than directors had suggested.

The FRC reported a decline in the quality of the work of all four, with KPMG performing the worst. The watchdog is already investigating KPMG over its role in the collapse of Carillion and it said on Monday there had been an “unacceptable deterioration” in the quality of its work.

The FRC cited figures that showed half of KPMG’s audits of firms in the FTSE350 index had required “more than just limited” improvements, up from 35% in the previous year.

“The overall quality of the audits inspected in the year, and indeed the decline in quality over the past five years, is unacceptable and reflects badly on the action taken by the previous leadership, not just on the performance of frontline teams,” the regulator said.

“Our key concern is the extent of challenge of management and exercise of professional scepticism by audit teams, both being critical attributes of an effective audit, and more generally the inconsistent execution of audits within the firm.”

It added: “[KPMG] agrees that its efforts in recent years have not been sufficient; the FRC will hold KPMG’s new leadership to account for the success of their work to improve audit quality.” …

The FRC said it would now scrutinise KPMG more closely as a result of its findings. It will inspect 25% more KPMG audits than before and monitor the firm’s plans to improve the quality of its work.

In the FRC’s overall assessment of eight accountants, it found that 72% of audits of all firms, including those outside the FTSE350, required no more than limited improvement, down from 78% last year. While only half of KPMG’s FTSE350 audits were deemed satisfactory, rivals scored far higher, although all showed declines and fell short of the FRC’s target of 90%.

Deloitte scored 79%, down from 82% last year, EY fell from 92% to 82% and PwC was down from 90% to 84%. The four firms immediately below the big four – BDO, Mazars, GT and Moore Stephens – were told that the quality of their audits had generally improved.”

https://www.theguardian.com/business/2018/jun/18/kpmg-singled-out-in-critical-report-on-audit-industry

Auditers: can they understand mathematics let alone accounting?

KPMG audited EDDC accounts until recently.

“Accounting watchdog fined KPMG 3.2 million pounds on Monday for failings in its audit of Quindell Plc, after the legal services firm twice restated its accounts leading to heavy losses. …

The fine in Britain comes as the global network of accounting firms that make up KPMG is under pressure. It is facing an inquiry in Britain over its audit of failed outsourcer Carillion and scrutiny of its South African arm’s work for a company owned by the Gupta family.

The ‘big four’ accounting firms, including KPMG, are facing calls to break up into smaller parts from lawmakers in Britain who allege their dominance of the market means they do not sufficiently challenge clients’ claims about their accounts.

THe FRC is also investigating KPMG’s auditing of the collapsed construction and outsourcing firm Carillion.

Once close to being one of Britain’s blue chip financial firms, the AIM-listed Quindell saw its market value collapse in 2015 after regulators launched probes into its financial accounts.

Quindell, which has since been rebranded as Watchstone, is still being probed by Britain’s Serious Fraud Office and the FRC over its business and accounting practises.

KPMG’s fine was discounted from an original 4.5 million pounds and Smith’s from 120,000 pounds because they chose to settle the case, the FRC said.”

http://flip.it/K0.u3P
Source: Reuters

Privatisation and outsourcing: beware ‘delusional’ directors, blind auditors and absent regulators

“Frank Field, chairman of the Work and Pensions Committee, said: “A board of directors too busy stuffing their mouths with gold to show any concern for the welfare of their workforce or their pensioners.”

For a longer and even more critical report published after this article, see:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-44129678

“The directors of Carillion should be formally investigated after overseeing a “rotten corporate culture” and may warrant disqualification from holding boardoom roles in the future, a House of Commons inquiry has concluded.

A damning 101-page report into the collapse of the public services contractor, undertaken by the joint business and work and pensions select committees, has identified failings by regulators, the accountancy firms KMPG and Deloitte and the government, as well as the company’s directors.

The government called the Official Receiver into Carillion four months ago after banks and investors refused to support the group, which had annual turnover of £5 billion and 43,000 employees. It collapsed with £2.6 billion of pension liabilities and about £2 billion of debts with suppliers and lenders. Its demise left serious issues over the delivery of maintenance, catering and cleaning contracts in schools, hospitals and military bases.

The company blamed its financial crisis on failing construction contracts, including those to build hospitals in the West Midlands and on Merseyside, a new motorway in Scotland and developments in Doha ahead of the 2022 World Cup finals in Qatar.

The MPs’ report recommends that:

•The Insolvency Service investigate “potential breaches of duties under the Companies Act” and claims of “wrongful trading” that could lead to “action for disqualification as a director”;

•The intervention powers of the Financial Reporting Council should be beefed up and its remit be extended to company directors that are not accountants;

•The Competition and Markets Authority should investigate the Big Four accountancy firms and consider that they be broken up;

•The Prompt Payment Code for suppliers should be reviewed after Carillion’s flagrant abuse of it;

•The “Crown representative” system used to oversee large public services contractors should be reviewed after it appeared to pick up no warning signals about Carillion’s financial crisis;

•The leadership of The Pensions Regulator should be is shaken up to make sure that it takes “harsher sanctions” against companies such as Carillion that fail to properly fund their retirement schemes.

The damning report will cast a shadow on the careers of the grandees on the Carillion board: Philip Green, the former United Utilities and P&O boss who was chairman; and Keith Cochrane, the former chief executive of Weir Group who was Carillion’s senior independent director.

There were criticisms, too, of Alison Horner, Tesco’s head of personnel, over her role as chairwoman of Carillion’s executive pay committee. Senior executives Richard Howson, Richard Adam and Zafar Khan were all sharply criticised.

Mr Green, who is called “delusional” in the report, criticised the MPs’ inquiry. “The report fails to understand and accurately reflect the true, more complex picture of events,” he said.”

Source: The Times (pay wall)

Who audits the internal auditor’s external auditor?

“The auditor of wine retailer and supplier Conviviality could face questions over its role in the company’s collapse.

The Financial Reporting Council (FRC) confirmed to City A.M. that it was “looking closely at the reported accounting issues at Conviviality”.

“If the relevant threshold tests are met in relation to accountants at the company and/or its auditors a formal investigation may be opened,” a spokesperson said.

This follows two profit warnings from Conviviality last month which it said had stemmed from accounting errors.

The first was blamed on an arithmetical mistake, while the second related to an unpaid tax bill.

The company ceased trading on London’s junior market prior to the second announcement, and scrambled to form a rescue plan as its cashflow was hit.

After unsuccessful attempts to save the company with a fundraising backed by drinks giant AB InBev, the company appointed administrators early this month.

Its direct business Matthew Clark Bibendum was sold to Magners Cider owner C&C, while its retail arm which includes Bargain Booze and Wine Rack was sold to Bestway for £7.5m.

Chief executive Diana Hunter stepped down in the midst of the scandal, but she and other board members have faced criticism for a fast-paced acquisition-focused strategy.

The FRC has the power to fine auditors it finds to be substandard, though its powers are set to be reviewed by the government following concern that the bar for misconduct is set too high.”

http://www.cityam.com/284451/kpmg-could-face-questions-auditor-watchdog-after