Monday, January 23, 2012

Auditors get into trouble over these issues

do the plumbers get complaints for  doing this?
Just read this article from ACRA on "Discussion of Past Disciplinary Cases against Public Accountants and Public Accounting Entities". It is to raise awareness of important issues concerning appropriate and acceptable professional conduct; and to make known actions taken by ACRA to uphold professional conduct. I will focus on the former.

What are most of the complaints against the public accountants about?
Usually they relate to allegations of improper or dishonourable conduct. Of course, this would includes (among others) a failure to comply with the Code of Professional Conduct and Ethics for Public Accountants and Accounting Entities (the Code).

Examples of main areas of complaints are:-

1. Can the Auditor retain or exercise a lien over the documents till fees (or ransom?) are paid? Similarly, can the Auditor refuse the request from client to release audited financial statements before settlement of fees?

The sad thing is the law or code of conduct does not offer much direction as it takes the position that "Generally, it is a private matter between him and his client".

Confusion would reign in the form of determining auditor's responsibility to client who may suffer financial and/or reputational loss when the client fails to fulfill statutory filing or meeting commercial obligations without the documents or the audited financial statements.

2. Poaching  clients of another public accountant who referred work to the public accountant.

Public Accountant A outsourced part of his work from Client to Public Accountant B. Client fell in love with Public Accountant B and asked B to take the job from A all together. What should Public Accountant B do? To me this is pretty obvious. My own guiding principle in the conduct of my business when in B's predicament would be for B to seek permission from A. If A says no, B should walk away. As I do intend to be in the business for long term, protecting my professionalism is of paramount importance on this little red dot of Singapore.

3. Fees disputes.
A pretty common issue that needs to be specifically addressed upfront in the appointment discussion and documentation.

4. Independent issues

I quote - "A public accountant should avoid situations which would give rise to the impression that his integrity and objectivity might be compromised or impaired when he was performing the role as the auditor."
Example cited in the paper - Can a member of an audit team be performing an audit of a company in which a related party is working as a director or a senior position?

My own guiding principle is again simple - When you yourself can have a doubt over a matter that may challenge your independence, please declare to all parties concerned and let the parties concerned decide on your participation or walk away from the situation.

5.  Conduct during practice review
ACRA may on many occassions conduct practice review of its public accountants. It is the duty of the public accountants concerned to render the necessary assistance and provide the necessary documents to appointed reviewers. Instead the reviewers receives shouting, foul language, threats and harassment from similarly "harassed and distressed" public accountants, defending their livelihood.

Yes, we should maintain basic civility between fellow human beings, each trying to do their job.

Good day and smile.

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