Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Accountants' Reputation On The Line

Wanda Liczyk is the former City of Toronto treasurer who was found by the Bellamy inquiry to have contributed to the MFP leasing fiasco through her irresponsible behaviour. As summarized by the Toronto Star:

While Liczyk was treasurer and chief financial officer, the city awarded a contract for $43 million to MFP Financial Services for the lease of computer equipment. The city ended up spending more than double that without council authorization or clear reports that the contract was out of control.

Bellamy said it was Liczyk's responsibility to inform council of the ballooning spending, but "she didn't."

Liczyk also failed to reveal that she'd had a sexual relationship with a consultant who built a new tax billing system for the city.

Liczyk's "wrongdoing was perfectly clear when measured against the terms of her contract and the code of ethics that governed her," Bellamy concluded in her report. The choice of the tax system was "a story of arrogance, deceit and abuse of power, all rooted in a conflict of interest."

Bellamy also said Liczyk had "blinders firmly in place... after years of mixing public service and private intimacy."

On Monday, the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Ontario announced they had decided she did not need to face disciplinary charges:

Peter Varley, vice-president of the institute, said in an interview [with the Toronto Star] yesterday that its professional conduct committee "concluded that a charge of professional misconduct is not warranted in this case."

Someone needed to remind Mr. Varley that it is the professional and ethical review process that is supposed to elevate his members from mere conmen with calculators.

Luckily, it didn't take him long to get a clue. He was suddenly singing a different tune in today's Star:

The complainants, who include the City of Toronto, had 30 days to apply to the institute's reviewer of complaints to conduct an independent investigation. ...

"We ourselves as the institute are in the process of forwarding that application to the reviewer of complaints," said Peter Varley, the institute's vice-president of public affairs.

"The fact remains that there is no need, given the public interest consideration here, for us to wait 30 days for any one of the complainants to refer this matter," Varley said. "We've undertaken to do that ourselves as the institute today."

You'd think that a profession that has been marred by the scandals we've seen recently would have the sense to take a multi-million-dollar rip-off seriously without having to be shamed into it by the media.


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