Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Importance of External Confirmations as Audit Evidence

ISA 505 deals with the auditor’s use of external confirmation procedures to obtain audit evidence in accordance with the requirements of ISA 330 regarding The Auditor’s Responses to Assessed Risks, and ISA 500 regarding Audit Evidence. It does not address inquiries regarding litigation and claims, which are dealt with in ISA 501 regarding Audit Evidence – Specific Considerations for Selected Items.

ISA 500 indicates that the reliability of audit evidence is influenced by its source and by its nature, and is dependent on the individual circumstances under which it is obtained. That ISA also includes the following generalizations applicable to audit evidence :

  • Audit evidence is more reliable when it is obtained from independent sources outside the entity
  • Audit evidence obtained directly by the auditor is more reliable than audit evidence obtained indirectly or by inference
  • Audit evidence is more reliable when it exists in documentary form, whether paper, electronic or other medium

Accordingly, depending on the circumstances of the audit, audit evidence in the form of external confirmations received directly by the auditor from confirming parties may be more reliable than evidence generated internally by the entity. This ISA is intended to assist the auditor in designing and performing external confirmation procedures to obtain relevant and reliable audit evidence.

Other ISAs recognize the importance of external confirmations as audit evidence, for example :

(1) ISA 330 discusses the auditor’s responsibility to design and implement overall responses to address the assessed risks of material misstatement at the financial statement level, and to design and perform further audit procedures whose nature, timing and extent are based on, and are responsive to, the assessed risks of material misstatement at the assertion level. In addition, ISA 330 requires that, irrespective of the assessed risks of material misstatement, the auditor designs and performs substantive procedures for each material class of transactions, account balance, and disclosure. The auditor is also required to consider whether external confirmation procedures are to be performed as substantive audit procedures

(2)  ISA 330 requires that the auditor obtain more persuasive audit evidence the higher the auditor’s assessment risk. To do this, the auditor may increase the quantity of the evidence or obtain evidence that is more relevant or reliable, or both. For example, the auditor may place more emphasis on obtaining evidence directly from third parties or obtaining corroborating evidence from a number of independent sources. ISA 330 also indicates that external confirmation procedures may assist the auditor in obtaining audit evidence with the high level of reliability that the auditor requires to respond to significant risks of material misstatement, whether due to fraud or error.

(3)  ISA 240 indicates that the auditor may design confirmation requests to obtain additional corroborative information as a response to address the assessed risks of material misstatement due to fraud at the assertion level.

(4)  ISA 500 indicates that corroborating information obtained from a source independent of the entity, such as external confirmations, may increase the assurance the auditor obtains from evidence existing within the accounting records or from representations made by management.

Source of this article : ISA 505 – External Confirmations, paragraphs 1-3