1. Who may inspect the books and papers?
A bankrupt or someone specifically authorised in writing by him/her may inspect his own books and papers in connection with matters arising out of bankruptcy. Similarly, the officers of a company who were in office at the date of the winding-up order have the same right. If a former officer requests access to the accounting records, the official receiver should verify the reason for this and ask the former officer to specify those books and papers he/she wishes to see.
If inspection is required for any purpose other than the completion of a Self Assessment return for personal taxation purposes, or for bankruptcy or winding up matters, the official receiver will decide whether or not to allow it.
Creditors (and contributories in a winding up) do not have the right to inspect the books and papers. To do so they must obtain a court order.
2. Government departments
The Insolvency Act 1986 allows all Government Departments and Agencies a statutory right to inspect books and papers. Consequently, anyone acting on their behalf e.g. a solicitor, may also be allowed access to the relevant books and papers.
3. Legal requirement to produce books and papers
If there are ongoing legal proceedings involving the bankrupt or company, the court may issue an order that the books and papers be produced. Such an order is known as a "subpoena" and the official receiver must comply with this.
4. Authorisation of inspection
All requests for information, other than from a Government Department, should be directed to an examiner. The decision whether or not to allow inspection for other reasons will be made, often with reference to headquarters, if legal proceedings are involved.
5. What if the books and papers are held in storage?
Where permission has been given for an inspection of the books and papers, arrangements must be made for the relevant records to be made available. If they are stored ‘on site’ (local official receiver’s office) retrieval should not be time consuming. However, if the books and papers are in storage externally, enough time should be given for the appropriate member of staff to organize their retrieval from Graphic Data, the Service’s external storage contractor.
This means that at least two working days before the Graphic Data scheduled visit to the office, the official receiver should notify them via the internet link of the boxes of books and papers to be retrieved. In an emergency, the official receiver does retain the right to request that Graphic Data deliver books and papers on the next working day but such requests should be kept to a minimum.
The examiner will confirm whether support staff are required to supervise the inspection. A room should be made available at the official receiver’s office for the reviewer to inspect the books and papers. Where this is not possible, there are several Graphic Data sites in various locations, where the records can be reviewed.
6. Inspection of the books and papers
Where an inspection is to be supervised, the member of staff supervising must not at anytime leave the reviewer unattended with access to the books and papers. If for any reason the ‘supervisor’ needs to leave the room, the reviewer should be asked to go to a waiting area. Similarly, where any documents are to be photocopied, the reviewer must not be left unaccompanied and should be informed of the appropriate cost for this. The fee payable should be handed over to the cashier.
When the inspection is complete, the books and papers should be returned to the correct storage place. Any items that have been copied should be identified e.g. by placing them in an envelope marked "copied by defence solicitors 11.12.07".
Graphic Data will still charge the official receiver for storage space even when boxes are retrieved. In most circumstances the boxes should be returned immediately to Graphic Data once the official receiver has finished with them. Only in exceptional circumstances, where books and papers need to be kept by the official receiver for a length of time, should Graphic Data be informed that the box is not being returned thereby ending storage charges. When the official receiver has finished with the boxes, the details will have to be re-registered as a new collection with a new bar code and LOIS (CA27) amended accordingly.
a. Examiners may wish to refer to books and papers during the course of their investigations.
b. If an examiner asks to see certain books and papers, they must be retrieved from storage, as appropriate.
c. Where there is a large quantity of books and papers, a suitable room should be made available for examining them.
Where can I find out more?
The Insolvency Act 1986
Section 155 – Inspection of the books by creditors, etc
The Insolvency Rules 1986
Rule 12.15 - Right to copy documents
Rule 12.15A - Charge for copy documents
Case Help Manual
1 Receive request to inspect books and papers.
2 If the request is made by telephone ensure the following details are obtained:
a. name of company, bankrupt or partnership
b. details of books and papers to be inspected e.g. wage records
c. name of person wishing to inspect
d. name of company or government dept which they represent (e.g. if a solicitor, the name of their client)
e. reason for inspection and telephone number on which they can be contacted
3 Direct the letter or written details of telephone call to the relevant examiner.
4 If the inspection is refused, the examiner should either inform the person requesting the inspection, or give full and clear instructions on how to do so.
5 If the inspection is agreed to, confirm with the examiner whether support staff will be required to supervise the inspection.
6 Contact the person who made the request and arrange an appointment for them to attend the official receiver’s office.
7 Diarise the appointment and make sure that the appropriate member of staff is able to organise for the books and papers to be available for that date.
8 Following the procedure used within your office, book the room where the inspection is to take place. Ensure that there is enough space to accommodate the books and papers, and that they will be moved there in time. This is particularly important if your office has them stored with Graphic Data.
9 If asked to do so by the examiner, supervise the inspection to ensure that no records are removed, altered or copied without authority.
10 If copies are required, permission must be sought from the examiner before any are made. Check and advise that a charge will be made before copying.
11 If asked to supervise the inspection, do not at any time leave the person unattended with access to the books and papers. They should be asked to go to a waiting area if you are called away or when you are taking photocopies.
12 Collect any amount due for photocopying and hand it to the cashier.
13 When the inspection is complete, ensure that the books and papers are returned to the correct storage place. Any items that have been copied should be identified, e.g. by placing them in an envelope marked "copied by defence solicitors 11.12.07".