Monday 8 June 2009
Section B – TWO questions ONLY to be attempted
2 In a major policy speech, Government finance minister Mrs Wei Yttria said that the audit and assurance industry’s
work should always be judged by the effect it has on public confidence in business. She said that it was crucial that
professional services such as audit and assurance should always be performed in the public interest and that there
should be no material threats to the assurer’s independence. Enron and other corporate failures happened, she said,
because some accountants didn’t understand what it was to act in the public interest. She stressed that it was
important that firms should not provide more than one service to individual clients. If a firm audited a client then, she
said, it shouldn’t provide any other services to that client.
Mr Oggon Mordue, a financial journalist who had worked in audit and assurance for many years, was in the audience.
He suggested that the normal advice on threats to independence was wrong. On the contrary in fact, the more services
that a professional services firm can provide to a client the better, as it enables the firm to better understand the client
and its commercial and accounting needs. Mrs Yttria disagreed, saying that his views were a good example of
professional services firms not acting in the public interest.
Mr Mordue said that when he was a partner at a major professional services firm, he got to know his clients very well
through the multiple links that his firm had with them. He said that he knew all about their finances from providing
audit and assurance services, all about their tax affairs through tax consulting and was always in a good position to
provide any other advice as he had acted as a consultant on other matters for many years including advising on
mergers, acquisitions, compliance and legal issues. He became very good friends with the directors of client
companies, he said. The clients, he explained, also found the relationship very helpful and the accounting firms did
well financially out of it.
Another reporter in the audience argued with Mr Mordue. Ivor Nahum said that Mr Mordue represented the ‘very
worst’ of the accounting profession. He said that accounting was a ‘biased and value laden’ profession that served
minority interests, was complicit in environmental degradation and could not serve the public interest as long as it
primarily served the interests of unfettered capitalism. He said that the public interest was badly served by accounting,
as it did not address poverty, animal rights or other social injustices.