2 March 2018 | Herpreet Kaur Grewal
Emma Mercer, Carillion's former finance director, had identified some issues in the company's accounts "with which she was not comfortable", according to minutes of meetings published by the parliamentary committees conducting an inquiry into the firm's collapse.
The minutes say: "On 3 May , Mrs Mercer had raised with Mrs [Janet] Dawson [group HR director] that she had concerns, and Mr [Richard] Howson met with Mrs Mercer on 5 May."
Alison Horner, chair of the company's remuneration committee, "noted that Mrs Mercer appeared to be a whistle-blower who did not feel she was listened to - hence her conversation with Mrs Dawson."
Mercer's revelations threw up some serious questions, not least for the company's auditors, KPMG. Her findings triggered a review of contracts, though the board's initial decision to have an independent element to this review was later reconsidered.
Rt Hon Frank Field MP, Chair of the Work and Pensions Committee, said: "Emma Mercer took just six weeks to spot and pull the thread that began the entire company unravelling. That the next chief financial officer had to go through whistle-blowing procedures to get her concerns about accounting irregularities taken seriously by the Carillion board is extraordinary. So too is that the board's response was to reject an independent review and get KPMG, their pet rubber-stampers, to mark their own homework.
"While our witnesses have been reticent in oral testimony, these minutes begin to reveal the true picture of a company falling apart at the seams in full view of the board and their auditors."
The Work and Pensions and Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committees published follow-up inquiries to Mercer, Carillion's last financial director, who took up the job when Zafar Khan was forced out in September 2017, as the inquiry continues.