Auditors in the Spotlight

The dynamic of an Oireachtas Committee session can change dramatically depending on the answers given, or not given by those before it.

Sometimes the questioning can be anodyne and intended only to get the questioner into the spotlight but it serves a purpose through the occasionally very well researched and forensic questioning that can be pursued.

Later today Sport Ireland through CEO John Treacy and Chair Kieran Mulvey will appear before it, just before or just after Ministers Shane Ross and Brendan Griffin to answer questions about the absent FAI.

The Association has chosen to postpone its appearance on the critical basis of getting on top of the 95 per cent of its funding that comes through external sources. Instead of meeting with TD’s and Senators it will instead be sitting down or on the end of a phone with sponsors and bankers.

Indications from the opening statement of Sport Ireland’s John Treacy are that the most uncomfortable people outside of the FAI throughout today could be auditors Deloitte.

Sport Ireland’s position is that as a funding but not a regulatory body they rely on the independent opinion of auditors to state that the Board and the organisations they are passing money to have been keeping proper financial records and maintaining a sustainable model.

Deloitte’s filing of an H4 form suggesting the FAI had acted contrary to these practices was one of the major body blows that created the perfect storm that unravelled what had clearly been building up over the best part of a decade.

The reason for their discomfort is not that they blew the whistle, that is their role when needed. The problem is the 21 years of accounts they saw no difficulty with since 1997.

That was the first year they came on board as Auditors. In 2018 their fees were an extraordinary €250,000.

It is not yet known what they will charge against the 2019 accounts or whether they will be in a position to do so.

An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said yesterday in the Dáil that it was good governance to rotate Board directors and auditors so it is highly likely that one of the other major firms like PwC or KMPG will be brought in to the FAI.

The GAA accounts last year were audited by PwC but before that Mazars had been on their rotation.

The IRFU may need to look afresh as Grant Thornton have been their regular auditors going back to 2003, the furthest records we could easily access this morning.

Auditors say that they rely on the Board of Directors to sign off on the veracity of statements and accounts over which they then look.

The outside world and funding bodies including the government though look to the auditors to do more than take somebody’s word for it. A level of due diligence is expected and demanded. The existence of lucrative and long term relationships are probably not the best basis for this trust.

You can watch the proceedings from the Committee Rooms at Leinster House on the excellent and very democratic Oireachtas TV this morning or you can join us again tomorrow when we will report on what has happened throughout another day of possible advance in the ongoing story of the FAI’s atonement and survival.

Read More: Explore our coverage of the FAI Governance story


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