Auditing corporate governance: what direction are we heading in?

David Clamp our consultant managing the role

The UK government recently published a policy paper, aimed at holding directors at large companies accountable and maximise transparency to ensure the prevention of fraud, or any other financial crime

We welcome the recommendation to include an annual resilience statement setting out how directors are assessing the company’s prospects and addressing challenges to its business model over the short, medium and long term. As a niche technology risk consultancy, we see embedding resilience in services and products is increasingly a key focus for our clients. The loss of consumer trust that follows service outages can have a material impact on the long-term viability of an organisation. Any additional focus on this, as part of a broader approach to enhancing transparency and trust in audit and corporate governance, can only be seen as a positive change.”

Rob Johnson, Senior Manager | dcr partners


What are the key points from the audit and corporate governance policy paper?


Public interest is at the heart of reforms

The Public Interest Entities (PIEs) are governed by the account legislation and are focused on audit, corporate reporting and governance. PIEs relates to a range of different businesses, including insurance firms, professional services firms , banks and publicly listed companies. The government wants to reform measures to make them more effective and to create a much more robust regulation, so companies have clearer guidance when carrying out audits. The new reforms will have an impact on the way organisations manage their finances and accounts.

Directors’ accountability

Large companies must have strong internal controls. As a result of poor risk management from many large firms, the Financial Reporting Council (FRC) Review outlined recommendations to strengthen the established internal controls framework. Multiple options have now been identified to increase the effectiveness of internal controls, one of which would require a directors’ statement, which would cover all aspects of the company’s risk management procedures and internal control. All of the new reforms will be in relation to capital maintenance and dividends.

Corporate reporting

When it comes to new corporate reporting, greater transparency on payment policies and practices are needed. The Brydon Review has recommended that for companies to remain competitive and relevant over the long term, reporting needs to showcase more evidence of a director’s plans for the company. Two new reporting requirements have been proposed, which includes an Audit and Assurance Policy and a Resilience Statement. Overall, as a result of the uncertainty in recent times, there’s now an increased appetite for businesses to be more transparent about their finances, operational risks and plans.

Strengthening the power of reporting

The government has set proposals to strengthen the regulator’s corporate reporting review that reflect the recommendations outlined by the Brydon Review. Some of the key measures being taken into consideration include the power for companies to direct changes to company accounts, as well as the power to publish CRR correspondence. The government intends to give more power back to the ARGA, and that there’s a more rigorous and consistent approach to discussing documentation and reporting.

Company directors

The role of a CFO , and many other company directors, is to oversee the business’ accounts. They have complete control, and regulators don’t have the authority to intervene if a director breaches any procedures related to the accounts. Therefore, the government aims to give the regulator the power to make directors of publicly listed companies accountable. This would be a major change for regulators, enabling them more authority over their relationships with company leadership. The new regime will allow regulators to take enforcement against directors for any breaches of duties relating to corporate governance.

Audit reforms

The government proposes to introduce a new corporate auditioning profession, as well as new principles, duties and obligations for directors and auditors. It’s been accepted by the Brydon Review that the auditing process needs to be improved and with more focus on aspects beyond financial statements’ compliance, to help the audit practices become more transparent and secure. The Brydon review has ambitions to make the audit process more informative and useful. This may include the introduction of a professional body for corporate auditors, which would help create more structure and an established framework for auditing.

Safeguarding shareholders

In response to the Bryon Review, the government is set to give more requirements to the audit committee’s role with the aim of safeguarding shareholders and other account holders in a business. There’s also set to be new measures that will bring in a greater dialogue between a company and its shareholders, which in turn, can improve the quality of audits in this changing financial landscape . The audit committee protects the interests of the company’s shareholders. It acts as a professional liaison that can help tackle a range of issues.

Changes to the audit market

As a result of the CMA Market Study, the government intends plans to increase competition, choice and resilience of the audit market in the UK. The reforms will include a range of measures, such as greater regulatory powers and duties, an operational separation between audit and non-audit arms of different firms, as well as renewed statutory powers for the regulator. The objective of the plan is to give the regulator new powers as the audit market evolves over time and to ensure greater enforcement and security.

Audit supervision

Moving forward, there will be much closer monitoring of audit quality, with regular inspections and reviews at least once every three years. This gives regulators the chance to act more effectively when quality issues are identified. In response to recommendations made by the FRC review, the government also plans to offer regulators new powers that will enable them to check auditor’s papers, giving the regulator greater freedom in how it chooses to monitor the quality of audits.

The future of the regulator

In order to strengthen the regulator, the ARGA will replace the financial reporting council, aiming to promote and protect the interests of investors, wider public interest and corporate reporting. The future of the regulator will revolve around having established roles and powers to exercise judgement on business audits. The regulator will also be funded through a statutory levy and the ARGA will be established as a company limited by guarantee. The government believes that ARGA should have broad objectives to remain relevant and flexible as the ARGA carries out its policy-making functions. Overall, there’s a range of proposed objections for the regulator, including quality objective and competition objective.

The role of the regulator

There’s a range of additional changes to the regulator’s role. For example, there are proposals for the regulator to have a more proactive role, which includes assessing any serious issues related to a company’s auditing process. The new responsibilities are all about preventing issues from happening, such as problems with corporate reporting or any concerns relating to the Public Interest Entity’s audit. The role of the regulator is set to change with the new measures being introduced. All of these new measures will help the ARGA achieve the aim of becoming an independent regulator.

Speak to a member of the team

Marks Sattin is a specialist recruitment and executive search firm. We have over 30 years’ experience finding professionals their next exciting opportunity and our people are committed to keeping abreast of the latest developments in our key markets. 

Should you have any questions or wish to discuss further, please feel free to reach out to me.



20/05/21
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