The word of ‘INDEPENDENCE’ is defined as ‘freedom from situations and relationships which make it probable that a reasonable and informed third party would conclude that objectivity either is impaired or could be impaired.’ (Kaplan, 2009, pp.117)
There are 2 types of independence, that are independence of mind and independence in appearance:
Independence of mind
The state of mind that permits the expression of a conclusion without being affected by influences that compromise professional judgment, thereby, allowing an individual to act with integrity, and exercise objectivity and professional scepticism.
Independence in appearance
The avoidance of facts and circumstances that are so significant that a reasonable and informed third party, having knowledge of all relevant information, including safeguards applied, would reasonably conclude a firm’s, or a member of the assurance team’s, integrity, objectivity or professional scepticism had been compromised.
(b) Why is external auditor’s independence so important? Illustrate with any past or current audit failures. (10 marks)
It is important for external auditors to be independent because external auditors act on behalf of the owners of the business, normally the shareholder, and report on the financial statements prepared by management for the benefit of shareholders. If the external auditors are not independent of their shareholder, for example, if they hold shares in the companies that they audit, their ability to form an objective opinion on the financial statements will be impaired.
In addition, external auditors must be also be seen to be independent because if they are not, the owners of the business will not have confidence in the audit reports that the audits issue. This is why it is auditor’s independent is so important because to prevent further scandals such as those of Enron’s and Parmalat’s case, and etc.
For example in the case of Phar-Mor, Inc one of the top 10 deep discount drug store chains in the United States and declared bankrupt in the year 1995. Phar-Mor, Inc declared bankrupt because the company contributing to the frauds and ability to cover it up for so long. Listed below the summarized of the factors contributing to the fraud:
Phar-Mor, Inc knowledge of audit procedure an objectives. Phar-Mor’s fraud team was made up a several former auditors, including at least one former auditor who had worked for Coopers on the Phar-Mor audit. The fraud team indicated that one reason they were successful in hiding the fraud from the auditors was because they knew what the auditors were looking for.
The Phar-Mor had financial interest in financial reporting, potential self-interest threat may occur. Such the fraud in the Phar-Mor case included:
- Overstating inventory and recording consigned inventory as owned inventory
- Recording revenue from receipts from vendors under certain promotion and exclusivity agreements when received, rather than over the life of the agreements
- Understating the amount of accounts payable by holding disbursement checks
- Recording revenues and receivables from vendors at budgeted, rather than actual, amounts
The principle imposes an obligation on all professional accountants to be straightforward and honest in professional and business relationships. In the case of Phar-Mor, the Phor-Mor did not perform honest in professional and business relationships. The Phar-Mor provide misstatement of margins, inventories, and earnings in reports to management and in general ledger and financial statements (to cover up other misstatements), and Diversion of assets to affiliated companies via manually written checks (nature of disbursements falsified when recorded in books and records).
(c) The following situations may violate ethical codes imposed by regulatory bodies such as the MIA By-Laws (On Professional Conduct and Ethics):
Roslan, an audit partner, owns material amount of shares in a trust fund investment company, which in turn owns shares in Roslan’s largest audit client. Reading the investment company most recent financial report, Roslan is surprised to learn that the company’s ownership in his client has increased dramatically.
From the case above, a member of the audit team has possible financial interest in the client, potential self interest threat may occur and the gift rise to Roslan possible self-interest.
Form my point of view, it seems less significant in terms of threats because the trust fund is indirect investment in the client. However, if the ownership in the client increases resulting in a significant proportion of Roslan’s fund to be invested in the client, then the threat may be significant. Moreover Roslan is an audit partner who audit in the investment company.
Safeguard or action to be taken is since the threat may not be so significant, it may not be necessary to get Roslan to dispose off the financial interest. However, it would be better to remove or re-assign Roslan from the audit assurance engagement.
Sofia Ali is doing the audit of a large car dealership. She is just the audit assistant in the audit team. The sales manager of the client tells her there is a sale (at a substantial discount) on new cars that is limited to long established customers of the dealership. Because her audit firm has been doing the audit for several years, the sales manager has decided that Sofia should also be eligible for the discount.
Discuss whether the facts in any of the situations above give rise to threats to independence. (15 marks)
For the case above, Sofia Ali has been given extended gift and hospitality by client that is in the form of a discount to purchase on new car by a sales manager. This may give arise to possible self interest and familiarity threats. The threats may be significant because of the extent of gift and hospitality that is audit staff is offered discount. However, the threats may not be significant if the gift and hospitality is within client’s normal commercial terms, that is client offer to other customers.
Safeguard or actions to be taken is the audit staff, Sofia Ali should refer to policies of audit firm prohibiting or getting permission before accepting the gifts and hospitality from senior personnel.
Describe the concept of ‘sufficient appropriate’ audit evidence and explain why external auditors are not expected to gather all information in order to express an opinion on the truth and fairness of the financial statements of an entity.
ISA 500 Audit Evidence requires auditors to ‘obtain sufficient, appropriate audit evidence to be able to draw reasonable conclusions on which to base the audit opinion’. Sufficiency and appropriateness are interrelated and apply to audit evidence obtained from both tests of control and substantive procedures.
(ACCA, 2008, pp.119)
Sufficiency is the measure of the quantity of audit evidence. The quantity of audit evidence required is affected by the level of risk in the area being audited. Firstly, it is the level of inherent risk faced by auditors is high. For example, high technology developments in a market which is very competitive can lead to going concern problems and more possibility that the client’s Financial Statements will be misstated. This will lead to an increase in the inherent risk and will cause the difficulties for auditors to analyze Financial Statements in a volatile industry due to no consistency in Financial Statements and more evidence is needed during the planning stage. Besides, lack of IT control in a computerized environment may cause the level of control risk faced by auditors is high. This is because more evidence is needed for auditor when auditing the company. (ACCA, 2008)
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Appropriateness is the measure of the quality or reliable of audit evidence and its relevance to the audit subject matter. If quality is high, then the auditor may need less evidence. The quality or reliability of evidence is affected by several factors, such as external sources, evidence directly by auditor, entity, written documentation, and original documents. Original documents are more reliable than photocopies or facsimiles, which can easily be altered by the client.
Testing control is a test for the auditor to determine whether the control is operating effectively throughout the period under review stage. The auditor must consider the sufficient appropriates audit evidence is to support the assessed level of control risk is audit evidence is obtained from tests of control. For example:
Design: the control systems are suitably designed to detect and correct significant departures from the matter of accountability or material misstatements in any assertion
Operation: the control systems exist and have operated effectively throughout the relevant period.
The auditor must always carry out substantive procedures on material items. The ISA says ‘irrespective of the assessed rick of material misstatements, the auditor should design and perform substantive procedures for each material class of transactions, account balance and disclose’. When obtaining audit evidence from substantive procedures, the auditor must consider the sufficient appropriate audit evidence from such procedures together with any evidence from tests of control to support the audit opinion.
(ACCA, 2008, pp.99)
In an audit of a financial report, the audit opinion is given on the assertions by management, explicit or otherwise, that are embodied in the financial report. They can be categorized as follows:
- Assertions about classes of transaction and events for the period under audit
- One of the examples is occurrence, where a transaction or event took place which pertains to the entity during the period.
- Assertions about account balances at the period end
- For example existence is an asset or a liability exists at a given date, rights and obligations is an asset or a liability pertains to the entity at a given date, and etc.
- Assertions about presentation and disclosure
- An item is disclosed, classified, and described in accordance with the applicable financial reporting framework.
The auditor has a statutory duty to make a report to the entity’s members on the truth and fairness of the entity’s annual accounts. This report must state the auditor’s opinion on whether the statements have been prepared in accordance with the relevant legislation and whether they give a true and fair view of the profit or loss for the year and state of affairs at the year end. The duty to report on the truth and fairness of the financial statements is the primary duty associated with the external audit.
The assurance given by auditors is governed by the fact that auditors use judgment in deciding what audit procedures to use and what conclusions to draw, and also by the limitations of every audit. The auditor’s task is to decide whether the accounts show a true and fair view. The auditors are not responsible for establishing whether the accounts are correct in every particular. This is because it can take a great deal of time and trouble to check the accuracy of even a very small transaction and the estimation which means that financial statements can never be completely precise.
It is not easy and impossible to examine every single item in the financial reports. Here, as we shall see, auditor provides opinion about the financial statements, but not certificate that the financial statements are correct. Besides, audit procedures are designed to reduce the risk of the misstatements in the financial statements, but not eliminate the error in the financial statements. This is because by providing sufficiently reliable conclusion arriving by way of using the sampling procedures.
The sampling risk arises from the possibility that the auditor’s conclusion, based on a sample, may be different from the conclusion reached if the entire population were subjected to same audit procedure. A sampling risk can be reduced by increasing the sample size for both test of control and substantive procedures.
(ACCA, 2008, PP.189)
(b) Describe the following audit procedures used in gathering audit evidence and for each procedure, illustrate with an example:
- Analytical procedures
This involves seeking confirmation from another source of details in client’s accounting records.
Example: Confirmation from bank balances by referring to the bank statement.
(ACCA, 2008, pp.121)
Analytical procedures mean the study of trends and ratios in financial and non-financial information. It is used within audit planning to identify risk areas and also as a means of gathering substantive evidence, for example by calculating as estimate of a particular figure based on knowledge of the business and comparing this to the actual figure.
Example: A comparison of gross profit percentages month by month for a company could be performed and any unusual fluctuations investigated as these could indicate errors such as omission of sales, loss of inventory or other errors.
(ACCA, 2008, pp.121)
Observation means watching a procedure being carried out. It is usually used as a means of gathering evidence about the internal controls in a company.
Example: A appropriate to observe the procedures that are carried out when the post is opened to assess whether controls exist to prevent the misappropriation of cash.
(ACCA, 2008, pp.121)
Inspection means looking at documentation, books and records or assets. This could be done to confirm existence of an asset, to verify values or to provide evidence that a control has taken place.
Example: The inventory of a company at the year-end could be inspected as part of the evidence relating to its value. The inspection would give evidence as to whether the inventory was in good saleable condition.
(ACCA, 2008, pp.121)
Inquires mean requesting information. This could be from individuals within the company, either orally or in written representations, or in formal written requests to third parties.
Example: A relevant example would be to send a standard confirmation letter to the company’s bank
(ACCA, 2008, pp.121)
(a) Explain what is meant by the term audit risk? (8 marks)
Audit Risk is the risk of giving an inappropriate opinion on the financial statements. For example, failing to qualify when the financial statements contain a material error. Audit Risk has three individual components in the formula:
Audit Risk = Inherent Risk X Control Risk X Detection Risk
Inherent Risk is the susceptibility of an assertion to a misstatement that could be material individually or when aggregated with misstatements, assuming there were no related internal controls. Inherent risk is also a risk that it is impossible for auditors to manage and transfer away due to the nature of the company and its transaction.
Control Risk is the risk that material misstatement that could occur in an assertion and that could be material, individually or when aggregated with other misstatements, will not be prevented or detected and corrected on a timely basis by the entity’s internal control.
Detection Risk is the risk that the auditor will not detect a misstatement that exists in an assertion that could be material, individually or when aggregated with other misstatements. For a given level of audit risk, the acceptable level of detection risk bears an inverse relationship to the assessment of the risk of material misstatement at the assertion level.
(b) Explain why auditors need an understanding of the client’s environment, including its internal controls, and list some aspects of client’s environment and internal controls.
(Total : 20 marks)
Auditors should obtain an understanding of the entity and its environment, including internal control, sufficient to identity and assess the risks of material misstatement in the financial statements whether due to fraud or error. Then, the auditors able to design and perform further audit procedures.
It is essential for auditors to understand the client’s environment, including its internal controls because the knowledge of understanding of the client’s environment will guide auditors to build up or maintain a good professional relationship with the client. Listed below are the reasons why auditors need an understanding of the client’s environment, including its internal controls.
A client may involve in a volatile sector of economy, which means that the industry has rapidly and is planning further expansion which will require additional resources. This will cause the stock obsolete and the obsolete stock may be overstated in the Financial Statements. In such circumstances, there is a risk that creditors will go unpaid and the business will go into liquidation. It is very risky for directors of the company and the auditors if they auditing the company.
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Today’s world is rapidly changing such as technology. It is very competitive with new technology developments in a market because competitive can lead to going concern problems and more possibility that the client’s Financial Statements will be misstated. This eventually will increase the inherent risk for the auditors especially in the aspect when the auditors auditing the financial statements. It is also will lead to an increase in the inherent risk and will cause the difficulties for auditors to analyze Financial Statements in a volatile industry due to no consistency in Financial Statements.
Besides, the management’s attitude, whether are they reliable and trustworthy in the business is suspected. This will indicate that the management’s integrity is doubtful and mismanagement may be occurred. This in-turn will cause the Financial Statements may be subject to manipulation by existing auditors when they auditing the company as management is bias.
Nevertheless, financial aspect will be taking into consideration if the company is facing financial problems. The company would needs a bank loan to finance the director ambitious plans. However, the loan facilities are scare. The risk for auditors to audit the Financial Statements will increase when the management of the company would use an aggressive accounting tactics to manipulate the Financial Statements.
Last but not least, there is a misappropriation to a specific ascertain for a cash transactions or account balances in the. The cash balances may influence the Financial Statements and will cause an increasing risk for auditors to audit Financial Statements and there is a limitation for the auditors to identified completeness of sales and internal controls are insufficient.
The aspects of client’s environment and internal controls are as follow:
Industry, regulatory and other external factors, including the reporting framework
Nature of the entity, including selection and application of accounting policies
Objectives and strategies and related business risks that might cause material misstatement in the financial statements
Measurement and review of the entity’s financial performance
The control environment
Monitoring of controls
An important aspect of an external auditor’s audit of financial statements is observation of the conduct of the client’s physical inventory count.
Explain the purposes of the auditor’s observation of the client’s physical inventory count?
It is important for auditors to observe client’s inventory stock count. This is to verify assertions of existence of inventory items that makes up the balance, means that the stock count done by the client staffs are as per the Stock Taking Instruction (STI). All the stocks are properly allocated, ensure that the stock stated in the stock list are actually exist. If do not have such stock exist as per the stock list, inquire the management or superior for the explanation.
Besides, the auditors should ensure that the condition of the stock are clearly stated during the stock count, such as identify evidence of damaged or slow moving inventory because it is useful for the further evaluation of the inventory. This also wanted to prove that the actual stock record data are as per the stock count.
Not only that, observation of stock count is to ensure that all the stocks held in the warehouse are particularly owned by client, that is right and obligations assertion. Any stock held for 3rd party, ensure it is properly separated from the client’s stock and inspect the agreement between the 3rd party and client regarding about the stock held.
Lastly, the auditors should verify by assertions of completeness. That is the audit should ensure all sales and purchases are well recorded and all the inventory at year end is included on the statement of financial position.
(b) You encountered the following situations during the 31 December 2008 physical inventory count of Shoe Supplier Sdn. Bhd.:
In observing the inventory of liquid shoe polish, you note that one lot is 5 years old. From the inspection of some bottles in an open box, you find the liquid has hardened in most of the bottles.
As an external auditor, the audit procedures I would take is to find out or enquire whether this box of liquid is still part of the inventory balance, that is inventory record. Besides, I will ensure that the box of liquid in this inventory is written off and not saleable anymore. Lastly, I will also determine whether the sales of the liquid shoe polish are valued at the ‘lower of cost’ or ‘net realization value’, if it is saleable. If the liquid shoe polish still cannot sell, then dispose the liquid shoe polish.
During your observation of the inventory count also, you noticed that some
counting staff are using pencils to record down inventory counted.
Describe the procedures that you would take as an external auditor?
As an external auditor, the audit procedures that I would take is I will ensure that client’s staff are following instructions during the inventory count. Besides, no pencil is allowed during the inventory count. This is because by using pencil to record down inventory counted is showing not a good count instruction. Therefore, I will inform the person in charge of count that some staff are using pencils to record down inventory counted to prevent any adjustment easily to be made. Lastly, I will follow up to observe whether the staff are using pen subsequently during the inventory count and observe the condition of the stock properly to ensure it is clearly stated as per during the stock count, as it is useful for the evaluation of the inventory.
(c) Describe the audit procedures an external auditor would carry out to verify whether inventory should be valued at cost or net realizable value.
(Total : 20 marks)
The management of the company is responsible for the identification and reporting of stocks that are worth less than cost to the auditor in a form of a schedule listing all the identified items. The types of inventory that may be worth less than costs include slow-moving, obsolete and damage stocks.
Audit procedures for stocks worth less than costs are as follows:
Enquire from management as to how they account for and identify such inventories, including the assumptions they made about the age, conditions and value of the inventories.
Inspect sales, marketing and other reports, and review the extent to which inventories which are worth less than costs have been reduced to net realizable value (NRV) in prior years. Analytical procedures may be performed to evaluate the appropriateness of the write down in the current year.
Analyse the client’s computerized records, if available, to identify goods that are old or slow-moving. The records may also show seconds and damaged goods. Any information produced by the computer system for management relating to inventories need to be checked. Computer Assisted Auditing Techniques (CAAT) may be used for these purposes.
Auditor’s need to checked the appropriateness of the definition of old and slow-moving given by the management, by making references to competitors products, technology changes and legislation.
For high value items the auditors will need to refer to the expert’s valuation report to note if any material differences exist.
At the inventory count, a note should have been made of any items that appeared to be old, slow-moving or damages and the count records should be inspected to see if they do show such goods.
Describe external auditor’s responsibilities to report appropriately on the going concern aspect of an audit client.
(Total : 10 marks)
[OVERALL TOTAL: 100 MARKS]
The auditors’ responsibility is to consider the appropriateness of the going concern assumption made by management and whether are there any material uncertainties about the entity’s ability to continue as a going concern that need to be disclosed in the financial statements.
In obtaining an understanding of the entity, the auditor should consider and stay alert to obtain evidence as to whether any events or conditions and related business risks which may occur and cast significant doubt on the entity’s ability to continue as a going concern during the auditing. If such event or conditions were identified, the auditor should perform addition audit procedures to consider their impact to the audit assessments.
The auditors should :
- Review management’s plan for future actions based on its going concern assessment
- Gather sufficient appropriate audit evidence to confirm whether or not a material uncertainty exists . Considering the affects of any plans of management and other mitigating factors
- Seek written representations from management regarding its plan for future action
- The auditor should also inquire management as to its knowledge of events or conditions beyond the period of assessment used by management that may cast significant doubt on the entity’s ability to continue as a going concern.
The audit procedure that auditor should undertake to realize that may have affect on company going concern issues are as follow :
- Analyse and discuss cash flow, profit and other relevant forecasts with management.
- Analyse and discuss the entity’s latest available interim financial statement
- Review the term of debentures and loan agreements and determine whether they have been breached
- Read minutes of meetings for the reference to financial difficulties
- Enquire of entity’s lawyer regarding the litigation and claims
- Consider the entity’s position if unfulfilled customers order
- Assess financial ability to provide additional funds
- Review events after period end for item affecting the entity’s ability to continue as going concern.
- (ACCA, 2008)
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