Accountants off the Hook; Irish Move Sets Back Crackdown

Article excerpt

Byline: DAN ATKINSON

LABOUR'S planned crackdown on rogue accountants, already plagued by delays and disputes, faces another blow because of Irish government plans for tough rules of its own.

As accountancy is organised on the same basis throughout Britain and Ireland, Trade and Industry Secretary Stephen Byers may be forced to rethink.

It could mean a delay beyond the next election to the purge on malpractice or incompetence prompted by the role of some auditors in signing off the accounts of fraud-ridden giants such as the Maxwell empire, the Polly Peck trading group and Bank of Credit and Commerce International.

Already the launch of the new accountancy regulator is running a year late.

The date has been changed to next January, partly because of wrangles over the financial contributions expected from each of the six professional bodies concerned.

But the Irish dimension was thought to have been resolved after talks in 1998 and 1999.

The difficulty was the proposed Investigations and Discipline Board (IDB), part of the new structure. It was unthinkable that accountants in the Republic should face disciplinary action from a body based in London, so a separate Irish board was to have been established.

Ireland would participate in the other two boards, covering ethics and audit practice, and in the overall review board, which is to monitor the progress of the system. …