The director (discipline) of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI), the apex body of chartered accountants, has formed a prima-facie opinion, finding the auditor of the National Spot Exchange (NSEL) guilty of professional misconduct.
The matter has now been taken up by the institute’s disciplinary committee and an enquiry is scheduled next month. Responding to a Business Standard email seeking comments, the ICAI spokesperson said, “In respect of the complaint filed against the auditors of National Spot Exchange, it may be mentioned the said complaint has been duly processed in terms of the provisions and procedures prescribed under the Chartered Accountants (Procedure of Investigations of Professional and Other Misconduct and Conduct of Cases), Rules, 2007 and the director (discipline) has formed a prima-facie opinion holding the respondent guilty of professional misconduct falling within the meaning of Clauses (5), (6) and (7) of Part I of the Second Schedule to the Chartered Accountants Act, 1949.”
The disciplinary committee of ICAI “has considered the prima-facie opinion in its meeting held on October 19 and agreed to the same”, the spokesperson added. “Accordingly, it has been decided to proceed further under chapter V of the aforesaid rules for an enquiry by the disciplinary committee. The parties to the complaint have also been informed of the decision of the committee and the enquiry is now scheduled in the middle of December, 2015,” said ICAI.
Mukesh P Shah, partner of the audit firm Mukesh P Shah & Co, did not respond to an email seeking comments sent on Monday. The role of auditors in the payment crisis, which blew up after the discovery that there were not enough goods at NSEL godowns across the country to back the contracts traded on its platform, has come under the scanner of various agencies.
A high-level government team under the then economic affairs secretary Arvind Mayaram, set up by the finance minister in August 2013 to probe the NSEL crisis, had reported “possible violations” by entities such as “auditors in due-diligence”. The panel, which gave its recommendations on September 20, 2013, said action needed to be initiated over “failure to furnish a true and fair view of the state of affairs at NSEL in its balance sheet for the financial year ended March 2013”.
A day after this report was given, on September 21, 2013, Mukesh P Shah & Co informed the company that the accounts of FY13 could not be relied on. When Deloitte, Haskins & Sells, the auditor of NSEL’s parent, Financial Technologies (India) Ltd, or FTIL, came to know about this, it informed FTIL that accounts of the parent, too, could not be relied on.
On September 24, a day before the scheduled annual general meeting (AGM), FTIL informed the exchanges of these developments. It, then, had to withdraw certain resolutions related to the approval of accounts and re-appointment of Deloitte as auditor, from the AGM.
Business Standard had on Monday reported that IGL Finance, an investor aggrieved by the NSEL crisis, had moved the Delhi High Court alleging contempt of court by the institute. It had alleged the institute was not following the court orders of May 5 in the matter.
The institute said: “In respect of the contempt petition filed in the matter, it may be stated that in terms of the decision of the high court at Delhi on a petition filed by IGL Finance against the ICAI, necessary compliance in terms of the order of the high court has been made as above and there is no scope for contempt of court.”
Further, since the contempt petition alleged to have been filed has not been listed yet before the court and as and when the same is listed, the correct facts shall be brought to the notice of the court and the ICAI shall press for dismissal of the contempt petition, the ICAI spokesperson added.
However, an IGL Finance executive said the details were shared by the institute only after the contempt proceedings were initiated. The institute through its disciplinary mechanism is committed to expediting disciplinary cases involving its members in order to uphold the highest ethical standards conforming to the code of conduct, the ICAI spokesperson added.
AUDITING THE AUDITOR
Jul 2013: NSEL crisis breaks out
Aug-Sept 2013: Complaints, including one by IGL Finance, filed with ICAI against Mukesh P Shah & Co, auditor of NSEL
Dec 22, 2014: IGLF files an RTI application, seeking detailed progress report
Jan 22, 2015: ICAI responds saying no fixed timeline for such probes
Apr–May: As further reminders turned futile, IGLF moves Delhi high court; ICAI gives assurance of decision in four weeks
Aug: ICAI says prima facie opinion formed, but refuses to disclose details
Oct: Disciplinary panel agrees with prima facie opinion of director (discipline)
Nov: IGL Finance moves contempt petition; ICAI discloses prima facie opinion and other details
- Dec: Enquiry scheduled by disciplinary committee of ICAI