CHAPTER-IV Reporting Standards

Auditing Standards - 2nd Edition, 2002

CHAPTER-IV
REPORTING STANDARDS

Government auditors submit different kinds of reports to the Executive and the Legislature. The audit reporting process begins with submission of an Inspection Report to the Head of any Office or Department which has been audited with a request to submit replies and clarifications/comments on the audit observations. Depending on the veracity and relevance of replies/clarifications received and the materiality of the observations in the Inspection Reports, these are further processed for reporting in the Audit Report submitted by the SAI for being placed in the concerned Legislature. Besides this basic distinction, there are audit certificates of financial statements or of statements of expenditure, which are issued to the management of a company/corporation and departments dealing with them. The following standards apply equally to all these reports with variations in the scope of these reports.

1.1 On the completion of each audit assignment, the Auditor should prepare a written report setting out the audit observations and conclusions in an appropriate form; its content should be easy to understand, free from ambiguity and supported by sufficient, competent and relevant audit evidence and be independent, objective, fair, complete, accurate, constructive and concise.

1.2 The auditor should issue the reports in a timely manner for use by management, legislature and other interested users.

1.3 The audit report may be presented on other media that are retrievable by other users and the audit organisations. Retrievable audit reports include those, which are in electronic formats and maybe released on the Internet.

1.4 With regard to audit of financial statements, the auditor should prepare a report expressing opinion on the fair presentation of the financial position of the audited entity in the financial statement. Form and content of this report and the nature of opinion is discussed in the following paragraphs.

1.5 With regard to fraudulent practice or serious financial irregularities detected during audit or examined by audit, a written report should be prepared. This report should indicate the scope of audit, main findings, total amount involved, modus operandi of the fraud or the irregularity, accountability for the same and recommendations for improvement of internal control system, fraud prevention and detection measures to safeguard against recurrence of fraud/ serious financial irregularity.

1.6 With regard to Performance or Value for Money Audits, the report should include a description of the scope and coverage of audit, objective of audit, area of audit, main findings in respect of the efficiency, economy and effectiveness (including impact) aspects of the area (subject matter) which was audited and recommendations suggesting the improvements that are needed.

1.7 With regard to regularity audits, the auditor should prepare a written report which may either be a part of the report on the financial statements or the value for Money Audit or a separate report on the tests of compliance of applicable laws and regulations. The report should contain a statement on the results of the tests to indicate the nature of assurance i.e. positive or negative obtained from the tests.

1.8 Reporting standards constitute the framework for the audit organisation and the Auditor to report the results of audit of regularity or performance audit or expressing his opinion on a set of financial statements.

1.9 These standards are to assist and not to supercede the prudent judgement of the Auditor in making audit observations, conclusions and report.

1.10 The expression 'Reporting' embraces both the Auditor's opinion on a set of financial statements and the Auditor's report on regularity, performance or value for money audit and also the reports prepared on periodical inspection of the records of an audit entity.

1.11 The audit report should be complete. This requires that the report contains all pertinent information needed to satisfy the audit objectives, and to promote an adequate and correct understanding of the matter reported. It also means including appropriate background information.

1.11.1 In most cases, a single example of a deficiency is not sufficient to support a broad conclusion or a related recommendation. All that it supports is that a deviation, an error or a weakness existed. However, except as necessary, detailed supporting data need not be included in the report.

1.12 Accuracy requires that the evidence presented is true and the conclusions be correctly portrayed. The conclusions should flow from the evidence. The need for accuracy is based on the need to assure the users that what is reported is credible and reliable.

1.12.1 The report should include only information, findings and conclusions that are supported by competent and relevant evidence in the auditor's working papers. Reported evidence should demonstrate the correctness and reasonableness of the matters reported.

1.12.2 Correct portrayal means describing accurately the audit scope and methodology and presenting findings and conclusions in a manner consistent with the scope of audit work.

1.13 Objectivity requires that the presentation throughout the report be balanced in content and tone. The audit report should be fair and not be misleading and should place the audit results in proper perspective. This means presenting the audit results impartially and guarding against the tendency to exaggerate or over-emphasise deficient performance. In describing shortcomings in performance, the Auditor should present the explanation of the audited entity and stray instances of deviation should not be used to reach broad conclusions.

1.13.1 The tone of reports should encourage decision-makers to act on the auditor's findings and recommendations. Although findings should be presented clearly and forthrightly, the auditor should keep in mind that one of the objectives is to persuade and this can best be done by avoiding language that generate defensiveness and opposition.

1.14 Being convincing requires that the audit results be presented persuasively and the conclusions and recommendations followed logically from the facts presented. The information presented should be sufficient to convince the readers to recognise the validity of the findings and reasonableness of audit conclusions. A convincing report can help focus the attention of management on matters that need attention and help stimulate correction.

1.15 Clarity requires that the report be easy to read and understand. Use of non­technical language is essential. Wherever technical terms and unfamiliar abbreviations are used, they should be clearly defined. Both logical Organisation of the material and precision in stating the facts and in drawing conclusions significantly contribute to clarity and understanding. Appropriate visual aids (such as photographs, charts, graphs and maps etc.) should be used to clarify and summarise complex material.

1.16 Being concise requires that the report is not longer than necessary to convey the audit opinion and conclusions. Too much of details detracts from the report and conceals the audit opinion and conclusions and confuses the readers. Complete and concise reports are likely to receive greater attention

1.17 Being constructive requires that the report also includes well thought out suggestions, in broad terms, for improvements, rather than how to achieve them. In presenting the suggestions due regard should be paid to the requirements of rules and orders, operational constraints and the prevailing milieu. The suggestions should be discussed with sufficiently high level functionaries of the entities and as far as possible, their acceptances obtained before these are incorporated in the report.

1.18 Timeliness requires that the audit report should be made available promptly to be of utmost use to all users, particularly to the auditee organisations and/or Government who have to take requisite action.

2. Follow up of Audit Reports

2.1 Adequate, prompt and proper follow up action by the entity on and in the light of audit conclusions projected will enhance the effectiveness of audit and promote public accountability.

2.2 Systems and procedures should be in place and implemented for securing appropriate conclusions and preventive follow up action on audit reports. In subsequent audits and otherwise, the Auditor should examine and report whether satisfactory action was taken on the audit reports.

3. Report distribution

3.1 Written audit reports are submitted by the audit Organisation to the appropriate officials of the Organisation audited. Copies are also sent to other officials who may be responsible for taking action on audit observations and conclusions. However, the report is not a public document till it is presented to the legislature.

4. Reporting on compliance with laws and regulations and on internal control

4.1 This standard is discussed under two sections, viz.,

  • (a) Value for money/Performance audit; and
  • (b) Audit of Financial statements.

5. Value for money audit

5.1 Auditors should report all significant instances of noncompliance and all significant instances of abuse that were found during or in connection with the audit. In some circumstances, auditors should report illegal acts promptly to the audited entity without waiting for the full report to be prepared after the audit.

6 Noncompliance and Abuse.

6.1 When auditors conclude, based on evidence obtained, that significant noncompliance or abuse either has occurred or is likely to have occurred, they should report relevant information. The term "noncompliance" comprises illegal acts (violations of laws and regulation) and violations of provisions of contracts or grant agreements. Abuse occurs when the conduct of a government Organisation, program, activity or function falls far short of societal expectations for prudent behavior.

6.2 Whether a particular act is, in fact, illegal may have to await final determination by a court of law. Thus, when auditors disclose matters that have led them to conclude that an illegal act is likely to have occurred. They should take care not to imply that they have made a determination of illegality.

6.3 In reporting significant instances of noncompliance, auditors should place their findings in perspective. To give the reader a basis for judging the prevalence and consequences of noncompliance, the instances of noncompliance should be related to the universe or the number of cases examined and be quantified in terms of money value, if appropriate.

6.4 When auditors detect non-significant instances of noncompliance they should communicate them to the auditee, preferably in writing. If the auditors have communicated such instances of noncompliance to top management, they should refer to such communication in the audit report. Auditors should document in their working papers all communications to the auditee about noncompliance.

6.5 Auditors may report illegal acts directly to specified parties in the auditee Government (for example, to the Union and State Vigilance authority etc) in certain circumstances.

6.5 Auditors may report illegal acts directly to specified parties in the auditee Government (for example, to the Union and State Vigilance authority etc) in certain circumstances.

7. Internal Controls

7.1 Auditors should report the scope of their work on management controls and any significant weaknesses found during the audit.

7.2 Reporting on management controls will vary depending on the significance of any weaknesses found and the relationship of those weaknesses to the audit objectives.

7.3 In audits where the sole objective is to audit the management controls, weaknesses found of significance to warrant reporting would be considered deficiencies and be so identified in the audit report. The management controls that were assessed should be identified to the extent necessary to clearly present the objectives, scope and methodology of the audit. In a performance audit, auditors may identify significant weaknesses in management controls as a cause of deficient performance. In reporting this type of finding, the control weaknesses would be described as the "cause".

8. Audit of financial statements

8.1 The report on the financial statements should either (1) describe the scope of the auditors' testing of compliance with laws and regulations and internal control over financial report in and present the results of those tests or (2) refer to the separate report(s) containing that information. In presenting the results of those tests, auditors should report fraud, illegal acts, other material noncompliance, and reportable conditions in internal control over financial reporting. In some circumstances, auditors should report fraud and illegal acts promptly to the specified authority in the audited entity.

8.2 These responsibilities are in addition to and do not modify auditors' responsibilities to (1) address the effect fraud or illegal acts may have on the report on the financial statements and (2) determine that the approximate authority are adequately informed about fraud, illegal acts, and reportable conditions.

8.3 Auditors may report on compliance with laws and regulations and internal control over financial reporting in the report on the financial statements or in separate reports.

8.4 When auditors report separately (including separate reports bound in the same document) on compliance with laws and regulations and internal control over financial reporting, the report on the financial statements should state that they are issuing those additional reports. The report on the financial statements should also state that in considering the results of the audit, these reports should be read along with the auditor's report on the financial statements.

8.5 Auditors should report the scope of their testing of compliance with laws and regulations and of internal control over financial reporting, including whether or not the tests they performed provided sufficient evidence to support an opinion on compliance or internal control over financial reporting and whether the auditors are providing such opinions.

9. Fraud, illegal acts and other noncompliance.

9.1 When auditors conclude based on evidence obtained, that fraud or an illegal act either has occurred or is likely to have occurred they should report relevant information. Auditors need not report information about fraud or an illegal act that is clearly inconsequential. Auditors should also report other noncompliance (for example a violation of a contract provision) that is material to the financial statements.

9.2 Whether a particular act is, in fact, illegal may have to await final determination by a court of law.

9.3 Thus when auditors disclose matters that have led them to conclude that an illegal act is likely to have occurred, they should take care not to imply that they have made a determination of illegality.

9.4 In reporting material fraud, illegal acts, or other noncompliance, the auditors should place their findings in proper perspective. To give the reader a basis for judging the prevalence and consequences of these conditions, the instances identified should be related to the universe or the number of cases examined and be quantified in terms of money value, if appropriate. In presenting material fraud, illegal acts or other noncompliance, auditors should ensure that standard for objectives, scope and methodology, audit results and presentation standards, as appropriate are observed. Auditors may provide less extensive disclosure of fraud and illegal acts that are not material in either a quantitative or qualitative sense.

9.5 When auditors detect fraud, illegal acts, or other noncompliance that are not of materials nature, they should communicate those findings to the auditee, preferably in writing and should refer to such communications in their report on compliance. Auditors should document in their working papers all communications to the auditee about fraud, illegal acts, and other noncompliance.

9.6 Management is responsible for taking timely and appropriate steps to remedy fraud or illegal acts that auditors report to it. When fraud or an illegal act involves assistance received directly or indirectly from another government or agency, (for example Central Government Grants received by the State Government or a government agency including an autonomous body received a government grant) auditors may have a duty to report it directly (to the other government/agency) if management fails to take remedial steps.

9.7 Auditors should obtain sufficient, competent and relevant evidence (for example, by confirmation with outside parties) to corroborate assertions by management that it has reported fraud or illegal acts.

9.8 Auditors under some circumstances may be required to report promptly indications of certain types of fraud or illegal acts to law enforcement or investigatory authorities. When auditors conclude that these type of fraud or illegal act either has occurred or is likely to have occurred, they should ask those authorities and/or legal counsel if reporting certain information about that fraud or illegal act would compromise investigative or legal proceedings. Auditors should limit their reporting to matters that would not compromise those proceedings, such as information that is already a part of the public record.

10 Deficiencies in Internal Control.

10.1 Auditors should report deficiencies in internal control that they consider to be reportable conditions. The following are examples of matters that may be reportable conditions:

  • Absence of appropriate segregation of duties consistent with appropriate control objectives;
  • Absence of appropriate reviews and approvals of transactions, accounting entries or systems output;
  • Inadequate provisions for the safeguarding of assets;
  • Evidence of failure to safeguard assets from loss, damage or misappropriation;
  • Evidence that a system fails to provide complete and accurate out put consistent with the auditee's control objectives because of the misapplication of control procedures;
  • Evidence of intentional override of internal control by those in authority to the detriment of the overall objectives of the system;
  • Evidence of failure to perform tasks that are part of internal control, such as reconciliation not prepared or not timely prepared;
  • Absence of a sufficient level of control consciousness within the Organisation;
  • Significant deficiencies in the design or operation of internal control that could result in violations of laws and regulations having a direct and material effect on the financial statements; and
  • Failure to follow up and correct previously identified deficiencies in internal control.

10.2 Audit follow-up standard requires auditors to report whether satisfactory action was taken or not, on the audit reports.

10.3 In reporting reportable conditions, auditors should identify those that are individually or cumulatively material weaknesses. Auditors should ensure that standard for objectives, scope, methodology, audit results and report presentation standards, as appropriate are followed in their reports on audit of financial statements.

10.4 When auditors detect deficiencies in internal control that are not of material nature, they should communicate those deficiencies to the auditee, preferably in writing. If the auditors have communicated other deficiencies in internal control to top management, they should refer to such communication when they report on internal control. All communications to the auditee about deficiencies in internal control should be documented in the working papers.

11. The form and content of audit opinion and report.

11.1 The form and content of all audit opinions and reports are founded on the following general principles:

  • (a) Title. The opinion or report should be preceded by a suitable title or heading, helping the reader to distinguish it from statements and information issued by others.
  • (b) Signature and date. The opinion or report should be properly signed. The inclusion of a date informs the reader that consideration has been given to the effect of events or transactions about, which the auditor became aware up to that date (which, in the case of regularity (financial) audits, may be beyond the period of the financial statements).
  • (c) Objectives and scope. The opinion or report should include reference to the objectives and scope of the audit. This information establishes the purpose and boundaries of the audit.
  • (d) Completeness. Opinions should be appended to and published with the financial statements to which they relate, but performance reports may be free standing. The auditor's opinions and reports should be presented as prepared by the auditor. In exercising its independence CAG may acquire information from time to time, which in the national interest cannot be freely disclosed. This can affect the completeness of the audit report. In this situation the auditor should consider the need to make a report, possibly including confidential or sensitive material in a separate, unpublished report.
  • (e) Addressee.The opinion or report should identify those to whom it is addressed, as required by the circumstances of the audit engagement and local regulations or practice. This is unnecessary where formal procedures exist for its delivery.
  • (f) Identification of subject matter. The opinion or report should identify the financial statements (in the case of regularity (financial) audits) or area (in the case of performance audits) to which it relates. This includes information such as the name of the audited entity, the date and period covered by the financial statements and the subject matter that has been audited.
  • (g) Legal basis. Audit opinions and reports should identify the legislation or other authority providing for the audit.
  • (h) Compliance with standards.Audit opinions and reports should indicate the auditing standards or practices followed in conducting the audit, thus providing the reader with an assurance that the audit has been carried out in accordance with generally accepted procedures.
  • (i) Timeliness. The audit opinion or report should be available promptly to be of greatest use to readers and users, particularly those who have to take necessary action.

11.2 An audit opinion is normally in a standard format, relating to the financial statements as a whole, thus avoiding the need to state at length what lies behind it but conveying by its nature a general understanding among readers as to its meaning. The nature of these words will be influenced by the legal framework for the audit, but the content of the opinion will need to indicate unambiguously whether it is unqualified or qualified and, if the latter, whether it is qualified in certain respects or is adverse or a disclaimer of opinion.

11.3 An unqualified opinion is given when the auditor is satisfied in all material respects that:

  • (a) The financial statements have been prepared using acceptable accounting bases and policies which have been consistently applied;
  • (b) The statements comply with statutory requirements and relevant regulations;
  • (c) The view presented by the financial statements is consistent with the auditor's knowledge of the audited entity; and
  • (d) There is adequate disclosure of all material matters relevant to the financial statements.

11.4 Emphasis of Matter. In certain circumstances the auditor may consider that the reader will not obtain a proper understanding of the financial statements unless attention is drawn to unusual or important matters. As a general principle the auditor issuing an unqualified opinion does not make reference to specific aspects of the financial statements in the opinion in case this should be misconstrued as being a qualification. In order to avoid giving that impression, references that are meant as "emphases of matter" are contained in a separate paragraph from the opinion. However, the auditor should not make use of an emphasis of matter to rectify a lack of appropriate disclosure in the financial statements, nor as an alternative to, or a substitute for, qualifying the opinion.

11.5 Adverse Opinion. Where the auditor is unable to form an opinion on the financial statements taken as a whole due to disagreement which is so fundamental that it undermines the position presented to the extent that an opinion which is qualified in certain respects would not be adequate, an adverse opinion is given. The wording of such an opinion makes clear that the financial statements are not fairly stated, specifying clearly and concisely all the matters of disagreement. Again, it is helpful if the financial effect on the financial statements is quantified where relevant and practicable.

11.6 Disclaimer of Opinion. Where the auditor is unable to arrive at an opinion regarding the financial statements taken as a whole due to an uncertainty or scope restriction that is so fundamental that an opinion, which is qualified in certain respects, would not be adequate, a disclaimer is given. The wording of such a disclaimer makes clear that an opinion cannot be given, specifying clearly and concisely all matters of uncertainty.

11.7 It is customary to provide a detailed report amplifying the opinion in circumstances in which it has been unable to give an unqualified opinion.

11.8 In addition, regularity audits often require that reports are made where weaknesses exist in systems of financial control or accounting (as distinct from performance audit aspects). This may occur not only where weaknesses affect the audited entity's own procedures but also where they relate to its control over the activities of others. The auditor should also report on significant irregularities, whether perceived or potential, on inconsistency of application of regulations or on fraud and corrupt practices.

11.9 In reporting on irregularities or instances of non-compliance with laws or regulations, the auditors should be careful to place their findings in the proper perspective. The extent of non-compliance can be related to the number of cases examined or quantified monetarily.

11.10 Reports on irregularities may be prepared irrespective of a qualification of the auditor's opinion. By their nature they tend to contain significant criticisms, but in order to be constructive they should also address future remedial action by incorporating statements by the audited entity or by the auditor, including conclusions or recommendations.

11.11 In contrast to regularity audit, which is subject to fairly specific requirements and expectations, performance audit is wide-ranging in nature and is more open to judgement and interpretation; coverage is also more selective and may be carried out over a cycle of several years, rather than in one financial period; and it does not normally relate to particular financial or other statements. As a consequence performance audit reports are varied and contain more discussion and reasoned argument.

11.12 The performance audit report should state clearly the objectives and scope of the audit. Reports may include criticism (for example where, in the public interest or on grounds of public accountability, matters of serious waste, extravagance or inefficiency are drawn to attention) or may make no significant criticism but give independent information, advice or assurance as to whether and to what extent economy, efficiency and effectiveness are being or have been achieved.

11.13 The auditor is not normally expected to provide an ovarall opinion on the achievement of economy, efficiency and effectiveness by an audited entity in the same way as the opinion on financial statements. Where the nature of the audit allows this to be done in relation to specific areas of an entity's activities, the auditor should provide a report, which describes the circumstances and arrives at a specific conclusion rather than a standardised statement. Where the audit is confined to consideration of whether sufficient controls exist to secure economy, efficiency or effectiveness, the auditor may provide a more general opinion.

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