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Audit Quality Forum – Do we still need auditors?

Three years of helping business get it right culminated in four thought-provoking debates in the areas of prosperity, security, fairness and integrity, as we sought to answer the question: Do we still need auditors? The debates at the Mansion House were chaired by former BBC journalist Gavin Esler.

Prosperity

Experienced FTSE 100 CFO Chris O’Shea delivered the provocation by arguing that it was not the of auditors to give opinions on qualitative business issues such as the reasons behind an investment strategy. Eamonn McGrath, EY’s UK head of regulatory and public policy, explained the role that auditors play to support business growth.

Security

Sir Edmund Burton, former chair of the Information Assurance Advisory Council, warned that data breaches were still taking place because businesses failed to understand the issues and provide the leadership required. Stephen Ley, head of UK payment practice at Deloitte, highlighted how auditors were playing a critical role in testing security controls.

Fairness

Robert Barrington, executive director at Transparency International UK, warned that auditors faced a choice – continue to audit financial data that was becoming less meaningful or offer assurance that would provide a fair and independent assessment of a company’s health. Tony Cates, vice-chairman of KPMG UK, argued that auditing needed to be bolder to address the expectation gap it was facing.

Integrity

The final debate was led by Sharon Darcy, director at Sustainability First, who argued that auditors needed to understand how the consumer and citizen interest were represented by their clients. Graeme Gordon, executive director at Praxity, pointed out that auditors were watchdogs and not bloodhounds and were not allowed to carry out most of the work demanded by the public such as tackling business fraud.