The criticism of auditors after the collapse of Independent Insurance is "ill informed", mainly because people do not properly understand their role, Geoff Boardman, of auditors Moore Stephens has said.

He said criticism of auditors' consultancy roles was misplaced and that too much was expected of non-executive directors.

"It's easier to blame the auditors than your industry or colleagues," Boardman said.

"Also, they usually have professional indemnity cover with nice, deep, impersonal pockets.

"Proportionality is ruled out in English Common Law, so if we're 10% to blame and the directors are 90% to blame, they can still sue us for the whole loss."

Boardman added it was ridiculous to suggest that a giant multinational like KPMG would compromise itself for a relatively small firm like Independent.

"The idea that KPMG, one of the largest firms of accountants in the world, would put its professional reputation on the line for a company as small as Independent is ludicrous," he said. "KPMG has more offices than Independent had employees – it's that silly."

Instead, he said a consultancy role usually made auditors more effective, and it was commonplace for auditors to hold consultancies with companies they audited.

"The consultancy gets them closer to the company and gives them a better idea of what goes on," he said.

"Consultancy also allows you to head off something before it goes wrong."

Non-executive directors were not always effective at monitoring company moves, he said.

"Too many people have an unreal expectation of non-executive directors who, in our experience, have been consistently mislead by overbearing chief executives," Boardman said.

Boardman said companies were also easily able to mislead auditors if they made a concerted effort to do so.

"If senior people conspire to hide something from the auditor, they have a very limited ability to find it," he said.

"If you're looking at insurance, where a lot of things are marginal and figures are very large, it's even more difficult."

He said this was why it was important to use specialist insurance auditors, although the trend was to use the "big five" – KPMG, Arthur Anderson, Pricewaterhousecoopers, Deloitte & Touche and Ernst & Young – regardless of the type of business.

"If you don't put a specialist in, he won't what question to ask and won't understand the answer," Boardman said.