Boldness a dirty word in audit choice reform

Damian Wild, AccountancyAge

Like an audit report itself, there are few bold pronouncements in this week’s
update from the FRC ­ boilerplate announcements are more the order of the day.
Of the 15 proposals made in the FRC’s interim report, just three were subject to
alteration in this week’s final version. Two of those simply served to tie down
detail; only one contained a material difference, and even that had been
foreshadowed by the Audit Quality Forum’s forays into the area.

What we’re left with is a package of measures that individually will do
little to widen the audit market. The FRC will be hoping that, together, the
whole adds up to more than the sum of its parts.

Should we have expected more? Perhaps not. Accountancy Age has long
struggled to see how choice can be widened through regulation. And while the
market may be concerned about the lack of choice, there is little anger.

So where do we go from here? Well, the report may spur the Big Four into a
degree of action. FRC chief executive Paul Boyle has thrown his weight behind
the market so far but earlier this year warned the FRC would review its position
if market-based solutions were not effective. The big firms will not want it to
come to that.

But, so far at least, the market has shown little appetite to act. FTSE 350
companies, the big pension funds and fund managers continue to appoint the Big
Four as auditors.

Will the effect of the report be as modest as the changes it puts forward?

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