1．（a）Explain the situations where an auditor may disclose confidential information about a client. （8 marks）
（b）You are an audit manager in McKay & Co, a firm of Chartered Accountants. You are preparing the engagement letter for the audit of Ancients, a public limited liability company, for the year ending 30 June 2006. Ancients has grown rapidly over the past few years, and is now one of your firm’s most important clients.
Ancients has been an audit client for eight years and McKay & Co has provided audit, taxation and management consultancy advice during this time. The client has been satisfied with the services provided, although the taxation fee for the period to 31 December 2005 remains unpaid.
Audit personnel available for this year’s audit are most of the staff from last year, including Mr Grace, an audit partent and Mr jones, an audit senior. Mr Grace has been the audit partner since Ancients became an audit client. You are aware that Allyson Grace, the daughter of Mr Grace, has recently appointed the financial director at Ancients.
To celebrate her new appointment, Allyson has suggested taking all of the audit staff out to an expensive restaurant prior to the start of the audit work for this year.
Ldentify and explain the risks to independence arising in carrying out your audit of Ancients for the year ending 30 june 2006, and suggest ways of mitigating each of the risks you identify. （12 marks）
Information obtained during an audit is normally held to be confidential; that is it will not be disclosed to a third party.
However, client information may be disclosed where:
— Consent has been obtained form the client
— There is a public duty to disclose or
— There is a legal or professional right or duty to disclose.
However, these rules are general principles only; more detailed guidance is also available to accountants, as explained below.
ACCA’s Code of ethics-obligator disclosure
As noted aboue, ACCA’s Code of ethics confirms that when a member agrees to work for a client in a professional capacity, it is an implied term of that agreement that the member will not disclose a client’s affairs to any other person.
The recognised exceptions to this rule are where a member knows or suspects that his client has committed treason, or is involved in drug trafficking or terrorist offences. In this situation, intormation must be disclosed to a competent authority. The actual disclosure will depend on the laws of the jurisdiction where the auditor is located.
The auditor may also be obliged to provide information where a court demands disclosure. Refusal to provide information is likely to be considered contempt of court with the auditor being liable for this offence.
ACCA Code of ethics – voluntary disclosure
A member may also disclose client confidential information voluntarily, that is without client permission, in a limited number of situations.
- To protect a member’s interest e.g. to allow a member to sue a client for unpaid fees or defend an action for negligence.
- Where there is a public duty to disclose e.g. the client has committed an action alainst the public interest such as unauthorised release of toxic chemicals.