Auditors called in at 'The Voice' over £400,000 shortfall in funds

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The Independent Online

The owner of Britain's leading black newspaper, The Voice, has called in auditors to investigate a shortfall in its accounts alleged to total £400,000.

The owner of Britain's leading black newspaper, The Voice, has called in auditors to investigate a shortfall in its accounts alleged to total £400,000.

The inquiry ordered by Val McCalla, Britain's most prominent black publisher, is the latest in a string of problems to hit The Voice. Its chief executive, Maxine McCalla, resigned on health grounds, forcing the paper to cancel a prestigious community awards ceremony planned for next month.

Staff at the newspaper, a widely read tabloid, were said last night to have been "shocked" by the departure of Ms McCalla, a cousin of the paper's owner, on 8 August. She was appointed managing director six years ago and her period in charge has been marked by a series of rows over the sackings of senior staff, including an editor.

It is understood the decision to cancel The Voice Community Awards, due to feature guests including Whoopi Goldberg and Will Smith, was taken because Ms McCalla was very closely involved in its organisation.

The company felt it would have been impossible to expect her successor to become familiar with the detailed and complex planning involved quickly enough to continue organising the event, which was starting to fall behind schedule.

Mr McCalla was unavailable for comment last night, but was quoted as saying yesterday that "certain irregularities" had been found in the company's accounts. He confirmed he was studying its recent financial transactions.

"We are not talking about small stuff but huge sums - hundreds of thousands of pounds.

"Now I am looking into what contracts have been signed and what money has been paid," he said.

Staff on the paper denied, however, that the shortfall was linked to an alleged fall in the paper's circulation to 12,000 to 14,000 a week.

They insisted The Voice was still selling approximately 34,000 copies.

In May last year, Annie Stewart, the then- paper's editor, and its head of advertising, Yvonne Laing, were fired. Both have received out of court settlements. Several company directors also left the company during earlier reorganisations of the paper's management.

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