Focus: Finance and Governance - Outlook - Audit standards are a mixed blessing

Peter Gotham is chair of the Charity and Voluntary Sector Group at the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales and a partner at accountancy practice Gotham Erskine. He writes in a personal capacity.

International Standards of Auditing (ISAs) and new ethical standards are coming - but why does this matter to readers of Third Sector?

The ISAs mean there will be less leeway for professional judgement by auditors. The new standards will have the positive effect of promoting high-quality audits. The downside is that charities will find auditors requiring more of their time to document and explain policies and procedures.

Similary, the ethical standards will increase the quality assurance control work required from auditors, especially if they undertake accounting or other non-audit services or the audit partner has been involved for more than ten years. Both sets of standards are likely to require more auditor time, especially at manager and partner level, and more senior management and trustee input from charities.

These standards are part of the drive to tighten regulation of the audit process. Like a lot of similar initiatives, the underlying idea is admirable - to improve quality and transparency. However, they will almost certainly cause a significant was in the air as some ran in festive fancy dress outfits, spurred on by the promise of mince pies and a glass of mulled wine or hot chocolate at the finish.

Among the runners was John Deas, a lifeboat crew volunteer and design engineer at the RNLI. He said he wanted to take part because "as a crew member, I know how much the training costs".

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