IFIAR Chair’s Update on COVID-19 to stakeholders
May 1, 2020
IFIAR Chair’s Update on COVID-19 to stakeholders
This letter is to provide an update on IFIAR activity, and that of IFIAR Member organizations, considering the COVID-19 pandemic crisis.
Firstly, IFIAR as an organization has responded with a focus on the health and safety of our Members, staff and the general public by canceling all upcoming in-person meetings and moving to a work-from-home basis for the IFIAR staff. Despite this, IFIAR as an organization has, like our Members, adapted and remains operational and actively focused on supporting our Membership and stakeholders in the audit community in our ongoing work as well as the new challenges at hand.
I, along with the IFIAR Board, recognize that many auditors and other participants in the audit and audit oversight community may be facing practical difficulties in carrying out audits and audit oversight as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. But as audit regulators we also recognize the importance of audit’s contribution to maintaining high quality financial reporting during this time and stress the need for audit firms to fully comply with required standards despite, and in light of, the significant impacts of COVID-19 – when investors and other stakeholders may have greater need for high-quality financial information than ever. Despite these new challenges, IFIAR will continue to fulfill its mission which is to serve the public interest, including investors, by enhancing audit oversight globally – including new activity developed in light of the COVID-19 situation. Such activity includes:
Information sharing for IFIAR members and the public
Many IFIAR Members and related regulators have issued announcements, statements and guidelines of import to the audit community during this crisis. Many public communications have been issued to draw the attention of auditors, companies and others to the audit, accounting and disclosure implications of the COVID-19 pandemic and its likely impact to audits of financial statements; as well as the related steps many regulators have taken, such as the extension of filing deadlines, temporary relief from on-site inspections, and the provision of timely updates to firms and stakeholders as to regulator expectations.
IFIAR has published dedicated COVID-19 pages on the IFIAR website to keep Members and the general public updated on such developments from across our Member jurisdictions and other relevant information in relation to the ongoing COVID-19 situation. (https://www.ifiar.org/about/covid-19-updates-public/)
A separate dedicated page for Members hosts further information of value to regulators.
Further, IFIAR’s Board held a conference call on April 16 dedicated to discussing the responses of Board Member organisations to the COVID-19 pandemic, to enable Board Members to learn and identify themes to share with the greater IFIAR Membership. The Board continues to closely monitor the evolution of the situation during its ongoing meetings.
Global Audit Quality Working Group (GAQWG) Liaison with the Global Public Policy Committee (GPPC) Networks
The GAQWG continue to interact with their GPPC counterparts to maintain dialogue and momentum regarding ongoing areas of focus for the working group; in addition to an immediate focus on new COVID-19-related issues that may be arising.
Officer/ Executive Director (ED) Liaison with the GPPC Leadership
The Officers and ED are holding periodic tele/video-conference calls with the GPPC Secretariat and Chair of the GPPC CEO Group; in addition to ad hoc calls with individual GPPC firm leadership to understand the challenges they are facing in completing audits in the current circumstances and the initiatives they are undertaking in response. During these interactions, the GPPC has been kept informed of the actions IFIAR has been taking to support its Members. The Officers and ED have reiterated the expectation for firms to comply with all relevant standards and perform high-quality audits.
Coordination with Standard Setters and other International Organizations
IFIAR continues to follow and comment on the work of the IAASB through IFIAR’s Standards Coordination Working Group (SCWG). In addition, the SCWG Chair is liaising with the IAASB and National Standard Setters (some of which are IFIAR Members with audit standard setting within their remit) to understand any responsive steps they may be taking.
IFIAR’s Officers and ED are also liaising with other international organizations to maintain open communication and information sharing, as appropriate.
Inspections: Members are adapting the practical aspects of their inspections of statutory auditors and audit firms to allow for continued activity under the recommended measures implemented by their respective governments. Remote working arrangements are in place for ongoing inspections in many jurisdictions and others continue to adapt their working arrangements to improve remote activity. In some cases, the timing of inspection activity is being adjusted or temporarily suspended to allow audit teams to focus on completing current audits.
Enforcement: Some Members are encountering obstacles to continued enforcement activity, particularly in respect of typical in-person activity such as conducting requisite in-person interviews or other meetings, or the taking of testimony (in jurisdictions where relevant) and are exploring remote arrangements for interviews and access to documentation.
Communication with national audit firms: A number of our Members have established regular contact with audit firm representatives at a national level in their jurisdiction to identify and understand key issues encountered by the firms in the current context, and the initiatives and processes implemented by the firms in response.
IFIAR recognizes the constraints experienced by, and additional pressures placed upon, all our stakeholders by the current circumstances. IFIAR’s efforts and methods to enhance audit oversight globally continues to adapt and evolve as a result and we will continue to update stakeholders through our website on these activities.
 Each of the Global Public Policy Committee (GPPC) networks is comprised of a group of legally separate firms operating locally in countries or regions around the world. The GPPC networks are represented by the following entities: BDO International Limited, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited, Ernst & Young Global Limited, Grant Thornton International Limited, KPMG International Cooperative, and PricewaterhouseCoopers International Limited.