The accountancy profession has been called to participate in the ongoing global debate on assurance on integrated reporting (<IR>) at a forum in Johannesburg, South Africa, hosted by the South African Institute of Directors and the Independent Regulatory Board for Auditors (IRBA).
At the forum, stakeholders were invited to discuss whether assurance is an appropriate and applicable way to enhance credibility and trustworthiness of the International Integrated Reporting Council’s (IIRC) international <IR> framework.
According to the IIRC, other discussion forums on the assurance topic are already being organised in Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore and the US, by interested parties including accountancy bodies and firms.
"Integrated reports need to provide ‘investment grade’ information and many think that assurance may be a way of ensuring this," IIRC chief executive officer Paul Druckman said.
The IIRC said that independent assurance is likely to be important for the long term credibility of integrated reports, "especially given the primary audience of <IR> as providers of financial capital".
However, the benefits and the practical implementation challenges of a third party assurance on <IR> are yet to be discovered.
Therefore, the IIRC recently issued two papers, Assurance on <IR>: an introduction to the discussion, and a more detailed document, Assurance on <IR>: an exploration of issues, which were also subject to discussion at the Johannesburg forum.
The papers discuss the nature of assurance and how it can be used to build up trust. They also consult on expected cost efficiency and who should provide assurance on <IR> reports.
"As a South African regulator and standard setter, in an environment where <IR> is accelerating, we look forward to bringing our experience in setting high quality standards to the integrated report," IRBA chief executive officer Bernard Agulhas said.
In the light of the market-driven nature of the <IR> framework, the potential need of <IR> related assurance standards and the role of regulation and regulatory bodies in the framework are tipped to be highly debated topics for the accountancy profession.