Don Cruikshank, chairman of Action of 2000, revealed the ominous figure at a meeting of the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee while answering questions on the country's readiness to meet the bug threat.
However, the numbers come as an improvement on the two-thirds of small firms being unprepared as revealed in the Accountancy Age Big Question survey two weeks ago.
Meanwhile accountants say the 'majority' of their clients are prepared to meet the millennium challenge, but believe there is a chance some will go out of business as a result.
At the meeting of the PAC on Wednesday last week, Cruikshank said concerns still remain for many small firms.
'We now have some 15% whom we think have still got to make significant improvements,' he said.
However, Action 2000 has came under some criticism for not targeting SMEs earlier in bug awareness campaigns.David Hands, at the Federation of Small Businesses, said SMEs should have received attention from Action 2000 some 'six months' before they did.Accountants have been reviewing the millennium bug readiness of their clients and believe most SMEs are all set to go.
Mike Farwell, partner at James Cowper, a Thames Valley practice, said 'a few' firms will fail as a result of the bug.But he added: 'What we do expect is businesses with a problem may add the year 2000 to their list of reasons for non-payment.'
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