Accountancy chief forced to surrender top job

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The Independent Online

The president-elect of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales has withdrawn his candidacy to try to defuse controversy over potential conflicts with his business interests.

Graham Durgan, the institute's deputy president, had been poised to assume the top job at the professional body early this month.

However, some within the profession called for him to step aside or relinquish his business interests after a company chaired and majority-owned by Mr Durgan was awarded two potentially lucrative training mandates by the institute last month.

Accountancy industry experts said each mandate could generate contracts with accountancy firms potentially worth £200,000 a year to Emile Woolf International (EWI), Mr Durgan's company.

There was no suggestion of impropriety in the awarding of these mandates, which were won after a competitive tender.

Mr Durgan had planned to play no active executive roles in his businesses during his presidency, but now believes he will be better able to take his critics to task without carrying the institute's top job.

He has also chosen to relinquish the deputy presidency of the institute but will remain on its governing council to "spearhead the institute's financial literacy initiative with UK schools".

At a meeting of that council yesterday, it was proposed the current president, Ian Morris, remain in the job for an extra six months after which he will be replaced by Richard Dyson.

The council formally expressed its appreciation for Mr Durgan's "contribution as deputy president and acknowledged the integrity he had shown in this matter".

Both Mr Durgan and the institute always maintained his financial interests in EWI were in the open throughout the tender processes. It said yesterday: "Graham Durgan has always declared his interests in accordance with the institute's code of conduct, and his dealings with the institute have always focused on the best and proper interests of the ICAEW.

"Throughout the applications process for recommended supplier status, he and his businesses have acted with complete integrity."

Nor was Mr Durgan involved in the evaluation processes that led to EWI being named the recommended supplier of training towards the institute's ACA qualification in Russia and China, two of the world's fastest-growing markets.