Auditing and assurance revision question and answer

Auditing and Assurance Revision Questions and Answers

Towards the end of an audit, it is common for the external auditor to seek a letter of representation (written representations) from the management of the client company.

Required:
(a) Explain why auditors seek letters of representation. (5 marks)
(b) List the matters commonly included in the letter of representation. (6 marks)
(c) Explain why it is important to discuss the content of the letter of representation at an early stage during the audit. (3 marks)
(d) Explain why management is sometimes unwilling to sign a letter of representation and describe the actions an external auditor can take if management refuses to sign a letter of representation. (6 marks)
(Total: 20 marks)

ANSWER
LETTER OF REPRESENTATION

 Auditors seek a letter of representation in order to obtain written audit evidence on matters that are material to the financial statements when other sufficient appropriate audit evidence cannot reasonably be expected to exist (ISA 580 ‗Management Representations‘).

 Representations may be the only evidence, which can reasonably be expected to be available, but they cannot be a substitute for other audit evidence that could reasonably be expected to be available. Such matters may include management‘s intention to hold an item for long-term appreciation.

 The letter also ensures that directors acknowledge their collective responsibility for the presentation and approval of the financial statements. The letter is signed those with knowledge of the matters concerned, on behalf of management.

(b) Common categories of matters included in the letter of representation
 Confirmation of responsibility for, and approval of, the financial statements.

 Confirmation that all of the accounting records, and all related documentation (such as minutes of management and shareholder meetings) have been made available, and that company transactions have been properly reflected therein.

 Confirmation of the expected outcome of legal claims.

 Confirmation of company plans in relation to certain tax provisions.

 Confirmation of the completeness of disclosure of related party transactions.

 Confirmation that there have been no post-balance sheet events that require revisions to the financial statements.

(c) Discussion of the content of the letter

 It is important to discuss the contents of the letter at an early stage because directors may disagree with what the auditors wish them to sign.

 It is important in such cases for negotiations to take place and the letter to be redrafted until it is acceptable to both auditor and client.

 The management representation letter is often regarded as a critical piece of audit evidence and if it is left to a late stage in the audit, when there is pressure on auditors and clients alike, negotiations may be difficult.

(d) Management unwilling to sign and actions if management refuses to sign

 Management is sometimes unwilling to sign because they feel that auditors should be able to obtain independent evidence in relation to the relevant matters. Alternatively, they may feel that the auditors are trying to shift responsibility for the audit to them;

 Sometimes, management is genuinely uncertain about whether it is sure of the matters included. However, there are occasions on which management is trying to
‗hide‘ from the auditors the fact that the income recorded is incomplete, or the fact that there is an outstanding undisclosed legal claim against the company, for example;

 Auditors should attempt to negotiate an agreement, as noted above. A formal letter may not be necessary, if management is able to provide some other written confirmation, such as a note of a meeting. Alternatively, a list of issues may be taken to the client to establish exactly which representations are causing the problem, and the letter redrafted;

 If management still refuses to sign, and the auditor feels that the matter is critical to the financial statements, it may be necessary to qualify the audit report with an
‗except for‘ (or even disclaimer of) opinion, on the basis of a limitation in the scope of the audit.



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