22 APRIL 2000, Page 27

The cost's in code

A SALVO from Greville Howard, the code warrior and boardroom resistance fighter. `The new code writing industry,' he tells his shareholders at Fortress Holdings, `has proved so popular with its inventors that they have been unable to resist introducing new codes on an almost annual basis. Shareholders should know that increasing accountancy regulation and compliance with codes have very substantially increased your company's audit fee.' How substantial- ly he does not say, but it would not surprise me if more than half the money went on regulation and compliance. They are per- ceived (as Professor Charles Goodhart has warned us) to be free benefits, which they are not. The accountants benefit, naturally. I asked an accountant why his professional body had not yet come out with a statement of practice, requiring compliance costs to be shown separately. He seemed to think that this was a bad idea. I wonder why.