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The need for principles based assurance guidance

In this article in the series on assurance over emerging forms of external reporting (EER), John Ward, Chair of the Audit and Assurance Innovation Panel and an assurance practitioner with 30 years of experience and expertise performing assurance engagements, addresses the need for principles based assurance guidance.

Assurance enhances confidence over information, with one example being an audit of financial statements. The IAASB’s International Standard on Assurance Engagements (ISAE) 3000 Assurance Engagements Other than Audits or Reviews of Historical Financial Information is already being successfully used to provide assurance over other information, namely emerging forms of external reporting (EER), and the IAASB is developing further guidance to assist with its application.

The growth in information

New technology and growing pressure from stakeholders mean that EER is developing and there is therefore increasing interest in and debate on the need for assurance over it.

As an assurance practitioner, I have successfully applied ISAE 3000 to the assurance over all types of EER I have encountered to date and I don’t expect that to change. While Standards within the ISAE 3000 family created to deal with specific topics have generally proved to be helpful, eg ISAE 3402 on assurance over internal controls of a service organisation, to maintain its usefulness, ISAE 3000 needs to remain principles based so that it continues to have the flexibility to be applied to assurance over all the new types of EER.

With EER likely to continue to evolve, the need for principles based assurance guidance is more important now than ever.