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Election 2019: Accountants badly need to audit manifesto pledges

Philip Fisher suggests that the accountancy profession is missing a trick by failing to offer its services to Sajid Javid as he struggles to understand accounting basics.

13th Nov 2019
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Sajid Javid

Judging by his efforts over the weekend, Chancellor of the Exchequer Sajid Javid is desperately in need of the services of at least one accountant and quite possibly a whole team of them.

Many readers must have been disappointed to discover that in response to the "Honourable Gentleman’s" dismal efforts to account for and quantify the Labour Party’s imagined manifesto, the only proposal of assistance to date has centred on the Office for Budget Responsibility, an organisation that has hardly covered itself in glory.

Where are the Big Four accountancy practices when we need them? Large numbers are clearly in play and there is a prospective client who obviously hasn’t the faintest idea how to add them up. Surely PwC, KPMG and their fellows should be champing at the bit to help out and if they don’t fancy the job, hordes of other bean counters would love to step in.

To make the prospect even more attractive, from what we have seen of Javid’s grasp of figures since he took office, a carefully costed proposal to involve dozens of members of staff with 100% recovery on ludicrous charge out rates would almost certainly be met with a smile and thanks for a bargain-basement price that could easily run into many millions of pounds.

Without having investigated the matter in any great detail so far, it appears that the man who hopes that he will soon have an opportunity to deliver a long-delayed Budget speech has real problems when it comes to understanding even the most rudimentary pillars of standard accounting practice.

He seems to double count with alacrity, makes no attempt to match income with expenses, brings figures into the wrong year and, quite frankly, use every tool in the creative accounting armoury, regardless of the actual underlying facts.

Should any enterprising firm fail to tender on time or finds itself beaten to the draw by one of its competitors, rather than shedding tears at the loss of a heaven-sent opportunity, they need not look far afield for a second bite at the juicy political cherry.

John McDonnell has been more circumspect to date but his boss is determined to push the boat out when it comes to public spending so there can be little doubt that the Labour Party will also require expert support when it finally publishes its manifesto and needs this to be costed and verified by an independent party.

The best news of all, given the problems that have beset the finest auditors in the land over recent months, where their work has been challenged following the rather too peremptory demise of one plant after another following a clean bill of health, is that this work is almost too good to be true.

Auditing imaginary figures that will never be turned into reality has to be the safest job of all. Indeed, even if one member of the Big Four confirms that Labour’s spending promises match the Tory predictions of £1.2 trillion and another makes its own independent assessment and decides that even one-third of this figure is rather on the high side, everything will be forgotten immediately after the general election anyway. By that point, no one will remember the nitty-gritty and everyone will have instead began to concentrate on leaving (or if the Lib Dems have their way staying in) Europe. In other words, we are talking about the job that every accountant dreams about where the fee is almost unlimited and the risk exposure non-existent.

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Replying to Desert Orchid:
Hallerud at Easter
19th Nov 2019 14:26

The new approach, all candidates get regular injections of "truth serums" during the campaigns- certainly brighten up the entertainment schedule, instead of giving us lying b******s we get truthful b******s.

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By AnwenStephen90
19th Nov 2019 11:44

In contrast, the Labor Party shadow minister promised to hold a party meeting in Brighton “in the hope that the world would share the wealth of the earth.
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