FRC orders KPMG, PwC, others to separate auditing from consulting services

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The world’s four biggest audit firms —KPMG, PwC, Ernest & Young, and Deloitte — have been directed by the Financial Reporting Council (FRC) to plan towards separating their audit services from their consulting services.

The deadline for compliance with this directive is June 2024.

A statement that was published on the FRC website said this directive is ‘world-leading’. The statement also explained why it became imperative to separate the firms’ operations towards ensuring that they deliver the uttermost quality audit services for the good of public interest.

By the time the operational separation officially takes effect starting from June 2024, FRC said it would be expecting the following outcomes:

That audit practice governance would prioritise audit quality and protect auditors from influences from the rest of the firm that may try to divert their focus away from audit quality.

That the total amount of profits distributed to the partners in the audit practice does not persistently exceed the contribution to profits of the audit practice.

The culture of the audit practice prioritises high-quality audit by encouraging ethical behaviour, openness, teamwork, challenge and professional scepticism/judgement.

Auditors act in the public interest and work for the benefit of shareholders of audited entities and wider society.

While commenting on this development, FRC’s Chief Executive Officer, Sir Jon Thompson, said the FRC is committed to reforms on how corporate finances are reported. Further aspects of the reform package will be introduced over time, he said.

“Operational separation of audit practices is one element of the FRC’s strategy to improve the quality and effectiveness of corporate reporting and audit in the United Kingdom following the Kingman, CMA and Brydon reviews. Today the FRC has delivered a major step in the reform of the audit sector by setting principles for operational separation of audit practices from the rest of the firm. The FRC remains fully committed to the broad suite of reform measures on corporate reporting and audit reform and will introduce further aspects of the reform package over time,” Thompson stated.

FRC reached this decision after engaging in extensive discussions with the Big Four. It was also agreed that the audit firms will submit an implementation plan to the FRC latest by October 23rd, 2020.

Recall that it was just last week when Nairametrics reported how the Big Four earned the sum of N7.53 billion as audit fees from Nigeria’s most capitalized firms in 2019. Interestingly, these firms now reportedly generate the largest portions of their revenues from consultancy services. As a matter of fact, only about 20 per cent of their revenues now come from auditing fees.