Accountancy chief's qualifications were misrepresented on website

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The qualifications of the president-elect of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales were misrepresented on his company's website, it emerged yesterday.

Graham Durgan, already embroiled in controversy over the award of two potentially lucrative training mandates by the institute, was wrongly accredited by Emile Woolf International College with LLB and FCA qualifications.

He is, in fact, neither a bachelor of law nor a fellow of the ICAEW, but a bachelor of sciences and an associate of the institute, which is a lesser accountancy qualification.

The Manchester-based Emile Woolf International College, a wholly-owned subsidiary of a company chaired and 60 per cent owned by Mr Durgan, corrected the error a month ago. A spokesman for Mr Durgan said: "This was an administrative error not made by Graham himself. He corrected matters as soon as they were drawn to his attention by a competitor. Throughout, Graham's qualifications on the much higher-profile institute website have been correctly recorded." Mr Durgan's Emile Woolf International (EWI), the parent company, supplies the college with tutors. Mr Durgan has never taught there.

A recent decision by the ICAEW to name EWI the "recommended supplier" of training towards its ACA qualification in Russia and China, two of the world's fastest-growing markets, provoked disquiet among some in the accountancy profession. Industry experts said each mandate could generate contracts with accountancy firms worth £200,000 a year to EWI.

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

But Mr Durgan's senior role in the institute, where he assumes the presidency next month, and EWI has fuelled misgivings over a potential conflict of interest. Some within the profession are calling for him to step aside from the institute or relinquish his commercial interests. They argue that Mr Durgan is privy to "inside information" at the institute

Members of the profession said this week they had been "very disappointed and concerned" when EWI was allowed to pitch for an earlier, lucrative contract to supply syllabus material to the institute.

Mr Durgan's spokesman insisted that during his deputy presidency Mr Durgan had divorced himself from any commercial decisions by the institute that could benefit his companies. During his presidency, he will play no active executive role in his businesses, the spokesman said. The institute stressed these mandates were put out to competitive tender and that Mr Durgan played no part in its decision on which firm to choose. It had been fully aware of Mr Durgan's financial interest in EWI throughout the process, the institute said.

A committee of past presidents of the institute has been asked to look into the selection process and will report in the next few days.