Supporting the global profession
Following the publication of Closing the Expectation Gap in Audit, ACCA, in collaboration with CA ANZ, CPA Canada and the Canadian AASB, sought to continue to examine the audit expectation gap with a focus on fraud and going concern in the context of an audit of financial statements.
Our recommendations within this report draw upon the outcome of a series of virtual roundtables held across various countries and regions around the globe. Using a multi-stakeholder approach, we collected views of representatives of the wider financial reporting ecosystem, including representatives of entities and their management (ie financial statement preparers), audit practitioners, regulators, those charged with governance (boards and audit committees) and financial statement users (ie investors).
Our collaboration revisited ACCA’s proposed approach to closing the expectation gap by dividing it into three components: namely the knowledge, performance and evolution gaps, and considering the issues relevant to each component. This proposed approach also helped form the basis of the International Auditing and Assurance Standards Board’s Discussion Paper (IAASB’s DP) on Fraud and Going Concern. The IAASB DP and the topics discussed within it formed a key part of our roundtable discussions.
We also highlight several recent developments affecting the audit profession and more specifically the areas of fraud and going concern, including the impact of COVID-19, relevant national audit reform reviews, and the continuing growth in advanced technology deployment within the audit profession.
In respect of fraud, among other recommendations, we encourage the involvement of forensic specialists in risk assessment, allowing auditors to apply their professional judgement when determining how to respond to identified fraud risks. This utilises the flexibility provided within the current auditing standard.
Our findings suggest that there is no clear evidence that a ‘suspicious mindset’ would contribute to enhanced fraud identification when planning and performing the audit. We therefore suggest that the IAASB and national standard setters consider areas where the auditing standards could be enhanced to guide practitioners in the application of professional scepticism.
In respect of going concern, among other recommendations, we suggest that the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB) and the IAASB explore supplementing the current binary approach to disclosing material uncertainty about going concern with additional going concern disclosures.
We also suggest that the IASB takes into consideration the concerns raised by some of our stakeholders regarding the inconsistencies noted in relation to the going concern assessment period. This relates in particular to the fact that, in some jurisdictions the going concern assessment period specified in their local accounting framework commences from the date that the financial statements are authorised to be issued rather than the reporting period as specified in IAS 1.