For a decade, audit firm KPMG had stamped Hyflux's annual reports with a clean bill of health, attesting to the water treatment company's ability to continue to operate.
But with the company now facing the possibility of liquidation after a scuppered restructuring deal on Thursday, its shareholders and investors are asking why auditors failed to flag the risk of Hyflux spiralling into heavy debt.
The Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (Acra), which enforces Singapore's strict auditing and accounting laws and standards, said in a statement that it will also "assess if further action is warranted".
Corporate governance experts believe the accounting and auditing issue is likely to centre on Hyflux's 2017 books, which the company released in March last year and carry the unqualified opinion of the auditors. It had slipped into the red for the first time in 2017 since its listing in 2001.
Yet two months later in May, Hyflux shocked investors when it filed for bankruptcy protection. Its financial statements were prepared on the basis of going concern - an accounting method that assumes the company will remain solvent and operational indefinitely until proven otherwise.
In recent years, we have witnessed the sudden collapse of large corporations such as Hyflux in Singapore and Carillion in the U.K. Some investors and analysts have attributed this phenomenon to ethical threats impairing auditors’ independence and objectivity.
Critically discuss the extent that external auditors are truly independent from their clients.
Reading and References
Your assignment should be supported by an appropriate number of academic references, as well as references to technical literature such as ISA’s and other regulatory references, Please indicate all references clearly in your assignment.
Your report should be double-spaced and word processed. The 1,500 words only includes introduction to conclusion. The rest is not included in the word count.
Introduction – You need to state the purpose of the report, i.e. identify that the report is a critical discussion of the extent that external auditors are truly independent from their clients.
Literature Review – Provides an in-depth review and current issues pertaining to ISA 200, specifically on auditor’s independence and professional scepticism. Highlight latest developments or recent case studies illustrating the concepts or principles, for example the new regulations under the EU Audit Reform.
Please ensure that the references are appropriately cited and presented in the references list.
Analysis of Potential threats to independence and objectivity – Critically analyse the current threats to independence, which also hamper professional scepticism in today’s auditing industry, which has already been subject to more intense scrutiny with tighter regulations implemented. Quote relevant case studies and examples to support your arguments.
Conclusion – Provide an informed conclusion which is justified by supporting arguments in your report.