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EU lays out stringent audit rules
July, 12th 2008

Indian companies seeking a listing in European countries will need to see whether their auditors are registered in the country where they are seeking a listing.

In its new statutory audit directive, the European Union has also made it mandatory for the audit firm to have a website where the firm must list all sensitive information.

Moreover, the EU has also made it compulsory for countries to have a public oversight office or an independent review board.

According to Rahul Roy, director of Ernst & Young India, the deadline to comply with the norms has been extended by more than two years from July 28, 2008 to December 2010.

The EU has prepared a list of countries who would be getting this (deadline) relief. India is on the second list, comprising among others, Brazil, China, Israel, Hong Kong, Russia, Pakistan, New Zealand and Thailand, Roy said. The first list comprises developed countries, where auditors have complied with the norms.

The EU would keep a close watch on the countries to track their progress in setting up a public oversight office. Countries could be downgraded if they fail to comply with the norms. Out of the 198 Indian companies listed on the European bourses, about 60 to 70 per cent do not have any of the Big Four auditors. In the audit business, the Big Four are Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, KPMG, PricewaterhouseCoopers and Ernst & Young.

Audit firms are unlikely to disclose sensitive information on their websites such as income, the percentage of revenue coming from auditing and the policy of remuneration of partners. No audit firm will be willing to publicly declare such information, said an industry expert.

The setting up of a public oversight office may also not be easy as professionals practising for the last three years are not allowed to be members of such a review body.

The Institute of Chartered Accountants of India will also not qualify since all its members are engaged professionally.

However, the quality review board, recently formed by the Union government, comes closest to meeting the EUs requirement of a public oversight office.

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