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Choosing non-audit assurance

Planning to explore the brave new world of non-audit assurance? You’ll need a blank piece of paper, a compass and some hiking boots – plus John Ward’s road map.

Whereas the audit is a well-defined service developed over many decades, assurance might seem to be an amorphous range of poorly defined possibilities. Buried in that statement are a criticism of the profession, a strength of assurance, and a test for the client and practitioner. 

Assurance under the IFAC Assurance Framework (‘the Framework’) provides freedom for the client and practitioner alike to determine what is most appropriate, depending upon the business need. We don’t need to probe very deeply into what the client wants as the core service from an audit, because an audit is heavily defined. The client has some freedoms, for example in selecting accounting policies and the underpinning structures, but there are also lots of rules. 

In the world of assurance we start almost at the other end of the spectrum. We need to establish quite a lot about the circumstances of the client, their business need and the subject matter as well as understanding what the users of assurance might want and need. It’s almost a blank sheet of paper when we start. This creates great opportunities. I’ve also known it to create a degree of confusion in auditors who have become used to having the infrastructure of accounting, reporting and auditing standards around them... 

This is an extract from an article in the November 2014 edition of Audit & Beyond, the magazine of the Audit and Assurance Faculty. 

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