Accountancy bodies let ‘off the hook’ over crisis

‘Are the big four accountancy firms beyond rebuke?’ asks Senator Seán Barrett

The Government must be far stricter in not letting accountancy bodies “off the hook” for failing to do their job, an economist has told the Seanad.

Senator Sean Barrett said accountancy bodies attending Oireachtas finance committee meetings "do not accept liability for having failed to do the job they were entrusted with" during the boom and in the run-up to the economic collapse.

“In fact, I suspect they would mostly do the same all over again,” he said.

Much stricter
Warning the Government it had to be much stricter with accountancy bodies, he asked where was the Irish Auditing and Accounting Supervisory Authority (IAASA) "when all of this was going on. Did any alarms sound?"


He was speaking during debate on the Companies (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill, introduced by Minister of State Kathleen Lynch, who said the legislation would strengthen oversight of the auditing process and "should provide better protection for shareholders, investors and creditors".

The legislation also provides for examinerships to be dealt with in the Circuit Court, where the company has a maximum turnover of €8.8 million, a balance sheet of €4.4 million and 50 employees or fewer. It also transfers powers from recognised accountancy bodies to the IAASA.

'Stable door'
Mr Barrett said "there is a sense of locking the stable door after the horse has bolted". He questioned the transfer of powers to the IAASA when it "has not been particularly active in pursuing the dreaded things we have all had to cope with in this country since 2008".

He asked why the recognised accountancy bodies “failed to identify what was going on among their members. Are the big four accountancy firms beyond rebuke? The State is now taking on the burden of a sector that did not regulate itself.”

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is Parliamentary Correspondent of The Irish Times