(This post originally appeared at Bishop Hill. This is a slightly longer version)
The Guardian recently published an article about a “limited-review” of the IPCC chairman RK Pachauri’s personal accounts by KPMG, a firm of accountants. This report had widespread play as it followed closely behind the Telegraph’s apology to RK Pachauri over its article about his business interests. For example, using conclusions and language from the report, George Monbiot went on to claim that the IPCC chairman had “no conflicts of interest“.
However, problems with the Guardian‘s understanding were evident with the very first of its pieces. Monbiot, with his co-author James Randerson labeled the review an ‘audit’. Monbiot repeated the appellation at his blog post, which accompanied the Guardian article. This problem is widespread – a recent Times of India report, for instance, identifies KPMG as auditors to the remit of what they performed. This New York Times blog called the report an audit. A Wall Street Journal article made the same mistake as well.
This is, of course, the opposite of how KPMG characterized their own report.
Our work constituted limited review, and the scope of our work was significantly different from that of an audit and cannot therefore be relied upon to provide the same level of assurance as an audit. (emphasis not in report)
A small Glitch
Among other things, the KPMG report looked at how Pachauri handled his travel expenses as paid from his accounts and his organization TERI’s. KPMG judged Pachauri’s financial records to be kept “accurately” and with “no exceptions”. A curious detail however emerges on closer examination. (h/t DennisA )
On page 14, a table appears to indicate RK Pachauri and his spouse Saroj Pachauri were fully reimbursed by Yale University for attending the “presentation ceremony” in 2008 at which Pachauri was given an honorary degree. KPMG indicate that TERI promptly and quite properly repaid Dr Saroj Pachauri’s share back.
The only problem with this statement is that the ceremony took place on May 26 in New Haven, and not during June 28-30.
Pachauri was awarded a “Doctor of Humane Letters” and received it in person, along with the rest of the ‘class of 2008′ (p. 8). Yale even declared the ceremonies a ‘carbon neutral graduation’.
What did take place in the last week of June, 2008? On the 26th, Pachauri visited New York City, met the mayor Michael Bloomberg over lunch and delivered a global warming speech. He reached California by the 27th where he met Arnold Schwarzenegger and Hal Harvey among, going by the IPCC’s itinerary document (p. 28). While there Pachauri even took the obligatory dig at climate skeptics as this video shows. Pachauri travelled back to New York on the 28th where he delivered a talk at an UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) meeting.
The Larger Point
One is tempted to say, almost per custom, something like “one small error in the report should not detract from the larger message it tries to convey”. Perhaps an explanation does exist, but it seems quite odd that a slip-up of this kind should find its way into the final report of KPMG’s review, given that the veracity of reports such as these depend on thorough examination of small details.