A series of round tables held by ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) and Grant Thornton in seven countries across the world, including South Africa has revealed a series of highly diverse opinions on the current and future position of audit. The discussions looked at the role audit plays in developed and developing countries. It also questioned the usefulness of audit by different players.
“Auditors need to look at how they can use technology to deliver a high quality audit in a more efficient and timely manner.”
The environment for professional accountants is changing. ACCA research has identified global connectivity, smart machines and new media as drivers that are likely to influence the global need for accountants over the next decade. Where there is change, there is greater demand for assurance in general and audit in particular, and for audit and assurance to be provided in new ways that make use of new technologies. Novel funding models may require novel assurance services. Stakeholders expect auditors to exploit new ways of working to drive efficiencies so that reporting timetables can be shortened while continuing to improve audit quality.
‘Audit providers should listen carefully to users, and understand who the users are, what information they use, and what they use it for’. ‘The next generation of investors may want different information’.
The report – The Future of Audit, showed that in countries where auditing is still developing, it was valued far higher than in countries where it is has been long established. In developed countries there were strong views that while the audit and assurance process was important it was neither timely nor offered insights as to where businesses could have done better.
For instance, “While the traditional approach might reassure regulators and company bosses, its usefulness to investors is shrinking all the time, prompting questions over its future. Business leaders expect information in real time, so why do we expect investors to wait months for the audit reports? Investors want insights on how a company could have addressed risks better or where they could have maximised profits. There’s a belief that the audit process should evolve to allow auditors to provide more valuable insights about a wider range of measures. “
“Investors want insights on how a company could have addressed risks better or where they could have maximised profits.”
The roundtables showed that while there are advantages to developing global rules, standard setters should be sensitive to the fact that countries are evolving at a different pace.
Auditors will need to keep their skills up to date to respond to the challenges created by heightened expectations of the profession. The digital age creates opportunities and threats.
For more on the findings of the report: http://www.accaglobal.com/content/dam/ACCA_Global/Technical/audit/ea-future-of-audit.pdf