Code of Professional Conduct and Ethics for Public Accountants strengthened

The Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA) issued the revised Code of Professional Conduct and Ethics for Public Accountants and Accounting Entities (the ACRA Code). The effective date of the ACRA Code will be revised to 1 Jul 2015 instead of 1 Feb 2015 as previously announced.

The ACRA Code serves as a vital set of guiding principles for public accountants to rely on and enable them to make the right decisions when faced with conflicting choices between economic interests and ethical considerations.

The ACRA Code is largely based on the Code of Ethics for Professional Accountants, 2013 Edition, issued by the International Ethics Standards Board for Accountants (IESBA) and published by the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC) in May 2013 (2013 IESBA Code), and subsequent final pronouncements to the 2013 IESBA Code up to September 2013, with modifications and provisions that address local needs in Singapore. Provisions are re-numbered to align the numbering with that of the Code of Ethics for Professional Accountants, 2014 Edition.

Key Amendments to the Code

The revised Code is built on the same principles as the previous Code and continues to require public accountants to ensure professional independence in key areas. The key amendments include:

(a) Extending higher independence standards to all audits and reviews of public interest entities (PIEs), large charities and large institutions of a public character as opposed to only audits of listed and public companies currently. This is in recognition of the need for a high degree of public confidence in the financial information of such entities.

(b) Under the revised Code, review engagements will be subject to the same independence requirements as audit engagements. Although the level of assurance obtained under both types of engagement differs, both audit and review engagements involve the public accountant expressing a conclusion on historical financial information. It is also recognised that in many review engagements, the public accountant expresses a conclusion on a complete set of financial statements.

(c) Removal of certain SG provisions to align with international benchmarks or where the new provisions from the latest version of IESBA’s Code have provided clearer or sufficient guidance compared to the IESBA’s 2006 Code of Ethics. SG provisions to be removed include prohibiting the provision of internal audit and certain information technology systems services to listed and public company audit clients and contingent fee arrangements for services to such entities. In place of the present SG Provisions, ACRA will adopt the IESBA Code’s thresholds that address the independence risk related to the level of audit fees an auditor receives from an audit client. However, as an additional safeguard, the SG provision which addresses the issue of relative fee size between audit and non-audit services has been retained for the time being. ACRA will review IESBA’s requirements when its project in this area is completed.

(d) New requirements to further safeguard the independence of auditors. These include the identification of a Key Audit Partner (KAP), who would make key decisions or judgments on significant matters with respect to the audit. Additional requirements will be placed on KAPs such as partner rotation, cooling off period before joining a PIE audit client in certain positions and prohibiting a KAP from being evaluated on or compensated based on that partner’s success in selling non-assurance services to the partner’s audit or review clients.

Source: Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority

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