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Herald View

THE Competition Commission deserves credit for ruffling the well-groomed feathers of the accountancy profession with the provisional findings of its investigation into the audit market.

It has raised important questions about the current state of play.

The commission's assertion that auditors may too often focus on the needs of senior management of client companies, rather than the shareholders they are appointed to serve, proved particularly unpopular with the profession yesterday.

However, given the questions the financial crisis raised in the minds of the public about the role of auditors, it is important that radical reform of the market-place is at least considered.

The Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland does not like the idea of mandatory rotation of audit firms.

There may be an argument that long-serving auditors have built up important knowledge of a big company's sometimes complex activities. However, there is probably a better argument for a fresh eye in an audit.

And ICAS's view that rotation might "merely result in the work being reallocated amongst the Big Four firms" highlights the biggest problem in the audit market.

The mid-tier players, by virtue of their scale or geographical spread, often have little realistic chance of winning the big audits.

It is lamentable that we have got to a position where there are only four big players, mainly as a result of a slew of mergers over the decades. This creates huge challenges for the future, regardless of best intentions.

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