COLIN Wharfe, the territory senior partner of international auditing firm PriceWaterhouseCoopers, spent a significant portion of his time on the witness stand at the commission of enquiry into the collapse of CL Financial yesterday diverting questions posed to him about the audit of the insurance conglomerate to other witnesses.
"Another witness could be of far greater assistance."
"That would be better responded to by another witness".
"There is a witness that could respond to that specifically".
These were some of the responses given by Wharfe yesterday during cross-examination by several counsel for parties represented at the enquiry.
Because of his answers British Queen's Counsel Edwin Glasgow, counsel to the commission, yesterday asked Wharfe he underwent a "witness familiarisation programme".
The eleventh evidence hearing of the enquiry began yesterday.
Sir Anthony Colman, the lone commissioner in the enquiry, said the whole of this week will see PwC witnesses take the stand. A special sitting of the enquiry will be held on Saturday.
Colman said the enquiry has a large amount of evidence to get through this week and as such a special sitting will be held on Saturday.
Wharfe was the first witness to testify. He was led into evidence by Senior Counsel Russell Martineau.
Wharfe joined the PwC in 1985 and was the auditing firm's territory assurance leader when the financial conglomerate collapsed in 2009.
He said his witness statement was meant to set the framework.
Stuart Young, the legal representative for Ernst and Young labelled Wharfe's witness statement "as the bible for this portion of the enquiry" because of its usefulness.
Lynette Seebaran-Suite, the legal representative for the Clico Policyholders Group was the first to cross-examine Wharfe yesterday.
Seebaran-Suite questioned Wharfe about CL Financial's real estate acquisition of Green Island Venture Development LLC for $1.8 billion which was included as a "subsequent event" on its Financial Statement dated the end of 2007. Seebaran-Suite said the purchase was over-priced.
Wharfe said he was unable to comment and referred the questions to another witness.
"At the risk of sounding unhelpful I would really like another witness to answer first hand knowledge of this," he said.
Neal Bisnath the legal representative for Clico was the next attorney to cross examine Wharfe.
"You indicated that your purpose here was to set a framework. I am interested in a little more than framework. I hope that I can get your assistance. I hope like good auditors you all did not simply divide up your tasks and you are doing one part and everybody else is doing separate parts," Bisnath said. Wharfe said the audit of CL Financial lasted some 6,000 hours.
He said that CL Financial's "business failure does not equate to auditor failure".
Young was the third to cross-examine Wharfe.
Glasgow was the last to cross-examine Wharfe.
GLASGOW: Have you received any guidance on how to give evidence?
WHARFE: With respect to responding? I am not sure when you say guidance....I am lost.
GLASGOW: Have you attended any training or any familiarisation programmes? It is not a criticism of you I just want to know.
WHARFE: I have met with counsel. I am not sure if that is described as that.
COLMAN: Have you ever given evidence before, in a court or a public enquiry?
COLMAN: That being so have you had any advice as to the way in which you should answer questions in a public enquiry?
WHARFE: I guess the simple advice is to share what you know and stick to what you are familiar with. I think those were the two guidelines.
GLASGOW: So you have not attended a specific training exercise in how to give evidence?
WHARFE: I have not.
Glasgow later questioned if Wharfe would "delegate somebody underneath" him to answer the questions posed in cross-examination.
Wharfe was asked to search for a document entitled "CIB post mortem" which was referred to in e-mail correspondence between PwC partners in 2008.
The document was said to have be one of several documents to have been shredded.
Dwayne Rodriguez-Seijas a senior manager at PwC is scheduled to take the witness stand today.