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The article A study of the audit committees functioning in Bahrain' is related with auditing. Audit Committees are an effective and powerful tool in corporate governance. The reason behind choosing this article is, it was jointly penned by P.L. Joshi and Amal Wakil, Department of Accounting, University of Bahrain. The title of the article is very interesting as it deals with the functioning of the audit committees operating in Bahrain. The article examines the composition, focus and the functioning of the audit committees (ACs). It also reflects on the functioning of audit committees in Bahrain from the responses received from 30 companies listed on the Bahrain Stock Exchange. The article has been successful in examining whether the companies in Bahrain are adhering to the standard guidelines, rules, regulations and recommendations provided by the Blue Ribbon Committee (BRC). From the study of this article by P.L. Joshi and Amal Wakil, it can be understood that the size, type of auditors and the type of industry has a strong influence on the establishment of audit committees in Bahrain. This article also emphasizes on the importance of corporate governance. The article acknowledges the role of the Board of Directors (BoD) in the efficient governance of the corporate sector around the world. Apart from the diverse functioning of the Board of Directors, the major one is to entrust responsibilities to the audit committees for smooth audit operations and procedures. The authors of the article realize the fact that it is not always possible for the Board of Directors to ensure reliability, authenticity and honesty of financial reporting of the company's books of accounts. This article also states the reasons for the non-involvement of the Board of Directors in auditing processes. The reasons cited are, lack of time and adequate skills and expertise in authentic financial reporting. Keeping this in mind, the authors P.L. Joshi and Amal Wakil have described three major functions in the literature on the audit committee's role. The article has an in-depth analysis of financial reporting, internal control and also external audit procedures. The article fully scrutinizes the practices of the audit committees with regard to their composition, membership, meetings, guidelines, functions and sections of interactions in Bahrain. The outstanding thing about this article is that it mainly addresses whether the listed companies in Bahrain are compliant with the standard AC's procedures as recommended by the Blue Ribbon Committee.
This is a good article on the grounds of originality, simplicity, practicality as well as regularity. The authors of this article devoted an ample amount of critical literature review so that their work is aptly positioned within their extensive research work. This is evident from the extensive use of tables and figures throughout the article.
Another striking feature of this article is the mention of The Treadway Report (Treadway Commission, 1987). The mention of the Treadway Report was significant because this report identified corporate governance standards that help in the reduction or elimination of fraudulent financial reporting. By mentioning about the Treadway Report, the authors of this research article have added a lot of value to it. It is because the Treadway Report was the first formal document emphasizing on the responsibilities of the audit committees. The report is also popular since it has set standards of best practice rather than a general or common practice. The main recommendations were that, that audit committees must have charters identifying the responsibilities of the members and solely independent directors must be part of the committee.
The major research strategies are experimental, quasi-experimental, survey design, action research, case studies and ethnography research. This article is an example of survey design research because a lot of questionnaires have been incorporated in the article. Based on the responses from the respondents, the functioning of the audit committees has been analyzed. The article has made use of a variety of techniques in the companies so that issues in the past and present are properly explored. The examination of the issues is important because they affect or influence a complete organization unit or a group of organizational units. This article has used the survey design research strategy to represent various possibilities and point of view of the organizations concerned in Bahrain. With the help of these possibilities and view points, future recommendations can be made. This survey design research work is an in-depth investigation and scrutiny of the audit committees functioning in Bahrain. This article did not follow a rigid protocol to examine the topic of discussion. Rather the authors had adopted a simple but in-depth analysis of the audit committees. In this article, the topic, 'A study of the audit committees functioning in Bahrain,' has been discussed in detail for a better understanding of the subject for the readers. Authors P.L. Joshi and Amal Wakil have provided a very systematic way of looking at the issue, collecting data in the form of tables and charts, analyzing those data and information and finally reporting the results. The authors of this article have adopted a very structured approach in the analysis of the audit committees operating in Bahrain. Consequently, the analysis may gain a clear understanding of the events that have happened in the audit committees in Bahrain. The research strategy adopted may also give an insight of why the instances are happening the way it did. This is significant because it might be essential to look at things more extensively for future research. The survey design approach in this article has been successful in generating and testing hypothesis.
The survey design approach has been able to investigate the functioning of the audit committees within its real life context. This article has incorporated quantitative and multiple sources of evidence. This study is a research approach that includes concrete data collecting techniques and methodological patterns.
After studying the article, it has occurred that the authors have adopted a very optimistic approach to the selection and analysis of cases. In this survey design research, issues of generalization, validity and reliability are all and equally significant.
The authors of this article have made careful use of information-oriented sampling (In tables reflecting figures) rather than random surveys or sampling. In tables III-VI, the analysis is based on the size, foreign operations and audit firms. The prominent aspect of the tables is, the size is gauged in terms of number of employees and the total number of assets. Table III clearly depicts that more the number of employees a company has, more is the possibility of having an audit committee in that company. This shows that citing a few or average examples may result in poor display of information. This study has depth and clarity because it has cited extreme cases (companies having maximum employees and less than 100 employees) that reveal more facts and information generating more basic mechanisms and more respondents in the situations studied.
The research methodologies used in this article seems to be qualitative. But at the same time it must be noted that the authors P.L. Joshi and Amal Wakil have also made use of quantitative methods by implementing hypothesis testing as well as sampling techniques in the form of tables. This work can also be regarded as an example of mixed method design. The methodology used in this article is in the form of questionnaire. The important aspect of the questionnaire used is that it was distributed to all 41 companies listed in the Bahrain Stock Exchange. Appendix 1 deals with the questions regarding the company's background, the existence of audit committees, their compositions and functions. The technique used in the questions were mostly of a 'yes' or 'no' type. The other questions that were asked were measured making use of the Likert scale that ranges from 4 (a very large extent) to 1 (the lowest). From the study of the article, it is also evident that the authors have taken a lot of effort in meeting partners of audit firms as well as some of the internal auditors of the listed companies. This amount of effort has been put in this article, in order, to discuss and analyze significant aspects concerning the importance of audit committees functioning in Bahrain. This has also been done to understand the role of the audit committees and their endeavor in enhancing corporate governance and ensuring the integrity and authenticity of the financial statements and reports of the company. The other important methodology was the inclusion of the most crucial question i.e. the examination of the viewpoint of the audit firms and the position of Bahrain with regard to the functioning of the audit committees.
In order to improve the response rate of the respondents, following methods were adopted:
A self-addressed stamped envelope.
A reminder after a month.
An offer of the summary of findings.
In result of this methodology adopted, a total of 30 questionnaires were received from the listed companies in Bahrain Stock Exchange. The results depicted a 73 percent response rate. The negative aspect of the methodology used was that there were no replies or response from six overseas companies, despite their listing in the Bahrain Stock Exchange. The effort also failed despite reminders and making phone calls.
The significant aspect of the methodology used was that, out of the total questionnaires received, twelve were completed by finance managers, nine by chief executives or vice-presidents and the remaining nine by internal auditors.
Does the Article Serve Any Purpose?
The article of the audit committees in Bahrain by P.L. Joshi and Amal Wakil shall definitely serve some purpose. In the study, it was found that besides the banking sector, audit committees have not been established in the other sectors due to lack of consciousness. Hence, future research may be aimed towards the role of audit committees in the non-listed sector. Emphasis can also be laid on the significance of adhering to the recommendations of the Blue Ribbon Committee and the Bahrain Stock Exchange. A comparative study of the current situation of audit committees can be made in the GCC (Gulf Co-operation Council) countries as well. There is also ample scope of discovery about the impact of audit committees on the quality of financial reporting of the company.
The tables depicted in the research throw light on very important aspects. They are:
Table I shows that 60 percent of the respondents have already established audit committees.
Table II shows the distribution of the respondents from various industrial sectors. Among these it is observed that 60 percent of the respondents were from the financial sectors like banks, investment and insurance companies. The others are from the service and industrial sectors. It is clear from this table that banks and other financial institutions constitute 78 percent of all the audit committees in Bahrain. Since banks are from the financial sector and represent complex financial dealings, they have already established audit committees based on the Basel Committee of Banking Supervision (1999).
Criticism of the Research
After careful studying of the article, certain criticisms of the article have been made. They are discussed as follows:
It is evident from the responses received from the questionnaires that audit committees are involved in the process of implementing corporate governance. And there is an auditor's fees that need to be assigned. In this process of assignment of auditor's fees, there are certain risks or threats because the audit fees do not ensure any surety of the independence and aim of the auditor.
It has also been found that the Board of Directors of the company often appoint and reject the auditors. If this happens, then efficient corporate governance shall get hampered. There shall be no guarantee of the authenticity of the financial reports if auditors are appointed and dismissed in this manner.
The establishment of audit committees shall enhance the competence and success of the external auditor's job in Bahrain. However, it must be noted that in order to achieve this, the appointment of skilled and knowledgeable audit committee members is mandatory.
According to the sampling or survey done, 85.5 percent of the audit firms opine that independent audit committees shall increase the authenticity of the financial reports or statements to a large extent. On the other hand, few are of the opinion that independent audit committees shall prove helpful to a limited extent only. Hence, it can be said that these are contradictory opinions received from the questionnaires. There lies a gap between the two responses.
After studying the responses, it is found that some are of the view that existence of audit committees shall ensure better corporate governance. But the chairman of Gulf Audit clearly says that audit committees in Bahrain have to walk that extra mile to ensure integrity of financial reports and efficient management of companies. This shows that, though the article has an optimistic approach, but to get things going shall not be an easy task.
From the responses received, it has been found that all audit committees in Bahrain are not adhering to the international recommendations like the Blue Ribbon Committee and the Bahrain Stock Exchange. If this is the scenario, then the effort of this article goes wasted because BRC and BSE are yet to make it compulsory for listed companies to establish an audit committee.
From the study, it is clear that having an audit committee in every corporate in Bahrain shall improve transparency and authenticity of financial reports. This is the most positive aspect of the criticisms made so far.
The other positive sides of the criticism are;
-Audit committees shall improve internal controls.
-Ensure equitable treatment of the shareholders to a limited extent.
-Improve the accountability of the managers to some extent.
-The managers shall be more aware of their responsibilities and this will help them present a fair view of the business operations without prejudice.
From the research article, it becomes clear that most of the audit committees in Bahrain discuss the status of the independent auditors with the finance manager of the company. This is a very optimistic approach because it is the responsibility of the audit committees that an outside auditor must have an objectivity and independence. This is also mentioned in the BRC (Blue Ribbon Committee) report.
It has also been found that there is direct communication between the audit committee and the finance manager. This ensures revelation of flaw, pitfalls and modifications regarding internal controls. This direct communication is crucial because it helps in the detection of errors in the books of accounts and thus, helps in the correct presentation of the financial reports of the company.
The focus of this article has been the establishment and functioning of the audit committees in Bahrain. After careful reading of the entire article or study the following conclusions have been drawn:
Only the banks and financial institutions have established audit committees in Bahrain. Besides the financial institutions, there is no system to implement corporate governance in Bahrain. In the other sectors, there is complete lack of consciousness regarding corporate governance.
From the above analysis it is clear that large corporations are more prone to establish an audit committee. This is simply because large corporations are more involved in foreign dealings than smaller ones.
It can also be inferred that if the external auditor of the company is among the Big4 audit firms, there is an increased possibility for that company to have an audit committee.
It has been found that there is a paucity of independent representation in the composition of audit committees.
It has also been observed from the article that the majority of the audit committees comprises of members from the Board of Directors of the company. Now, these members are a combination of independent non-executives as well as executives of the corporation. It is to be noted that it is a positive aspect that the Board of Directors appoints the members of the audit committees and not the Chief Executive Officers.
From the above study, some positive trends can be pointed out regarding the role of the audit committees in supervising the external auditors. The positive developments are, having meetings with external auditors before the commencement of the audit, evaluation of the external auditor's management letter, review and supervision of the all internal audit functions.
It has also been found that audit committees in Bahrain do not report their results to the shareholders. This is not a fair practice. Shareholders must be provided with some information, if not all of the findings.
Hence, it can be said that most of the companies in Bahrain, especially, the banking sector adhere to the recommendations of the Bahrain Stock Exchange. The existence of audit committees is very crucial according to the general point of view of the audit firms. It is crucial because audit committees ensure better internal control, improved corporate governance and integrity and authenticity of the financial reports of the company. Yet, it is also true from the article that most of the audit firms do not believe that establishment of audit firms shall be that effective immediately.
Finally it can be said that the findings of the above research may help the audit committees to implement certain policies for efficient corporate governance in Bahrain. The most significant point that comes out through the study of the article is that the Bahrain Stock Exchange should make it mandatory for all the listed companies in the Bahrain Stock Exchange to form audit committees that has not been done as yet. The other point that needs attention is that independent audit committees are yet to gain popularity in Bahrain. Though, it has been said that audit committees do not report their findings to the shareholders, but other functions are in harmony with the Blue Ribbon Committee's guidelines.