Deloitte – going out of their way to undermine accountability

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Accountancy Age has reported:

The average annual report has broken the ton, stretching to more than 100 pages, according to research by Big Four firm Deloitte, which wants government to ease the reporting burden on UK businesses.

The average report length has almost doubled from 56 pages in 2000 to 101 pages today, according to the study.

There is no great surprise to that. The increase has arisen almost entirely because of the introduction of  International Financial Reporting Standards, and that is a voluntary initiative from and by the accounting profession, in no small part paid for by Deloitte who are one of the four major contributors to the International Accounting Standards Board. But note the reaction from Deloitte:

Isobel Sharp, senior partner with Deloitte, believes current reporting regulation is confusing and can hinder meaningful communication between companies and their shareholders.

"The current model is a confusing and one which, in my previous report, I described as dysfunctional," she said.

The conclusion being

The research will put pressure on the government to ease the reporting burden on businesses as part of its far-reaching review of corporate reporting.

So here we have the accounting profession arguing that a self-imposed burden, created at its own expense, should justify the reduction in reporting of the activity of a corporation to its members. This is utterly absurd. As long ago as 1975 a paper entitled  The Corporate Report suggested that users of accounts wanted to appraise information on:

1. The performance of the entity;

2. Its effectiveness in achieving stated objectives;

3. Evaluating management performance, including on employment, investment and profit distribution;

4. The company's directors;

5. The economic stability of the entity;

6. The liquidity of the entity;

7. Assessing the capacity of the entity to make future reallocations of its resources for either economic or social purposes or both;

8. Estimating the future prospects of the entity;

9. Assessing the performance of individual companies within a group;

10. Evaluating the economic function and performance of the entity in relation to society and the national interest, and the social costs and benefits attributable to the entity;

11. The compliance of the entity with taxation regulations, company law, contractual and other legal obligations and requirements (particularly when independently identified);

12. The entity's business and products;

13. Comparative performance of the entity;

14. The value of the user's own or other user's present or prospective interests in or claims on the entity;

15. Ascertaining the ownership and control of the entity.

The sad truth is that in  the intervening thirty five years we have  made very little progress in achieving these goals. And now accountants want to reduce the limited disclosure we already have. Deloitte should be ashamed of themselves. How can anyone call themselves an accountant when their sole aim appears to be hiding information from those who need it?

The Big 4 are moving in the wrong direction. Country by country reporting is the direction of travel in which they should be going.