CORPORATE BOARD ATTRIBUTES AND AUDITORS’ INDEPENDENCE: A STUDY OF LISTED DEPOSIT MONEY BANKS

CORPORATE BOARD ATTRIBUTES AND AUDITORS’ INDEPENDENCE: A STUDY OF LISTED DEPOSIT MONEY BANKS

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ABSTRACT

External auditors occupy a unique position in the business community when they perform an audit for clients. The auditors are called upon to attest to financial statements and to safeguard the interest of various parties. However, in recent years the audit practice because of several scandals has been undermined. Although evidence of corporate governance practices and auditors’ independence exists from developed economies, very scanty studies have been conducted in Nigeria where corporate governance is just evolving. Therefore, this empirical study provides evidence on corporate governance, auditors’ independence, and firm related attributes from a developing country, Nigeria. The purpose of this study is to investigate the relationship between corporate board attributes and auditors’ independence measured by discretionary accruals. To do so, six (6) Listed Deposit Money Banks are selected and studied during the period 2006-2013. Board size and board composition are considered as corporate board attributes and profitability, leverage and size as control variables. The Ordinary Least Square Model estimation technique was used to analyze the relationship between the board attributes and auditors’ independence. The result of the study shows that there is no significant relationship between corporate board attributes and auditors’ independence of Listed Deposit Money Banks in Nigeria. The study therefore recommended that the board should be composed in such a way so as to ensure diversity of experience without compromising compatibility, integrity and independence.

Keywords: Corporate, Board Attributes, Auditors Independence, Deposit Money Banks


                                                   CHAPTER ONE

1.0 INTRODUCTION

The globalization of business practices and financial crisis brought corporate governance to the fore front of research. The increased attention on corporate governance has been motivated by the collapse of great corporations like WorldCom and Enron. The collapse of the Nigerian financial institutions was as a result of poor corporate governance standard, corruption and lack of transparency. Shareholders lost confidence totally in both public and private companies in the country as a result of weak corporate governance practice. In order to gain back the confidence, Security and Exchange Commission came up with the Code of Best Practice. It provides guidelines on the principles of corporate governance in Nigeria (Akpan & Amran, 2014).

The existing studies have indicated that there is no exact definition for corporate governance (Solomon, 2007). For example, the Cadbury (1992) defined corporate governance as: “a system by which companies are directed and controlled”. The nature of corporate governance, therefore, going by this definition consists of two dimensions, direction and control. Direction emphasizes the responsibility of board to attend strategic positioning and planning in order to enhance performance and sustainability of the company. The control side of the definition, on the other hand, emphasizes the responsibility of the board to oversee the executive management of the company in the execution of the plans and strategies. Therefore, a good system of corporate governance is considered as an important element in running the affairs of the company for the best interest of the shareholders. It assists in controlling the performance of the board in business operations. The board of director has a part to play in corporate governance as their main duty is that of supervising the management to ensure proper accountability to shareholders and other stakeholders. Since the board of director is vested with the responsibility of monitoring the interest of shareholders, they ought to have greater interest in the appointment of directors and auditors to ensure that qualified, experienced and educated

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directors and auditors are appointed. Individual firms apart from the SEC (2006) requirements have specified the profile requirements expected of their directors and auditors.

Auditor Independence (AI) has been defined as the conditional probability of reporting a discovered breach (De Angelo (1981). The International Federation of Accountants (IFAC) differentiates between independence of mind and independence in appearance. It defines independence of mind as the state of mind that permits the provision of an opinion without being affected by influences that compromise professional judgement allowing an individual to act with integrity, exercise objectivity and professional scepticism. Independence in appearance is defined by IFAC as “the avoidance of facts and circumstances that are so significant that a reasonable and informed third party, having knowledge of all relevant information would reasonably conclude that a firm’s or a member of the assurance team’s integrity, objectivity or professional scepticism had been compromised” (IFAC 2001).

1.1 WHAT IS AUDITOR’S INDEPENDENCE?

Auditor independence Auditor independence refers to the independence of the internal auditor or of the external auditor from parties that may have a financial interest in the business being audited. Independence requires integrity and an objective approach to the audit process. The concept requires the auditor to carry out his or her work freely and in an objective manner. Independence of the internal auditor means independence from parties whose interests might be harmed by the results of an audit. Specific internal management issues are inadequate risk management, inadequate internal controls, and poor governance. The Charter of Audit and the reporting to an Audit Committee generally provides independence from management, the code of ethics of the company (and of the Internal Audit profession) helps give guidance on independence form suppliers, clients, third parties, etc. Independence of the external auditor means independence from parties that have an interest in the results published in financial statements of an entity. The support from and relation to the Audit Committeeof the client company, the contract and the contractual reference to public accounting standards/codes generally provides independence from management, the code of ethics of the Public Accountant profession) helps give guidance on independence form suppliers, clients, third parties... Internal and external concerns are convoluted when nominally independent divisions of a firm provide auditing and consulting services.[1] The Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 is a legal reaction to such problems. This article mostly deals with the independence of the statutory auditor(commonly called external auditor). For the independence of the Internal Audit, see Chief audit executive, articles "Independent attitude" and "organisational independence", or organizational independence analysed by the IIA. The purpose of an audit is to enhance the credibility of financial statements by providing written reasonable assurance from an independent source that they present a true and fair view in accordance with an accounting standard. This objective will not be met if users of the audit report believe that the auditor may have been influenced by other parties, more specifically company managers/directors or by conflicting interests (e.g. if the auditor owns shares in the company to be audited). In addition to technical competence, auditor independence is the most important factor in establishing the credibility of the audit opinion. Auditor independence is commonly referred to as the cornerstone of the auditing profession since it is the foundation of the public’s trust in the accounting profession.[2] Since 2000, a wave of high profile accounting scandals have cast the profession into the limelight, negatively affecting the public perception of auditor independence.

1.2 AUDITOR’S INDEPENDENCE AND AUDITORS QUALITY

In recent times, research about the quality of audit report has increased tremendously, several factors has contributed to this fact, stemming from the growing importance of good corporate governance mechanism arising from highly publicized accounting scandals in Nigeria and across the globe. Many high profile corporate collapses, such as the case of world Com and Enron in the United state, have been traced to poor audit quality associated with a perceived lack of auditor independence. Recent reports of questionable accounting practices adopted by some companies in Nigeria have brought the issue of auditor’s independence to the forefront, and putting the auditing profession credibility in doubt (Otusanya and Lauwo, 2010). As a result of all these questionable accounting practices engaged in by companies, auditors have been put under pressure to ensure that their reports is made up of assurance to investors whose funds are invested in those companies are properly accounted for.In Nigeria at present, there are two recognized accounting bodies, the institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN) and the Association of National Accountant of Nigeria (ANAN), which are saddled with the responsibility of regulating accounting practices in Nigeria. As stipulated by CAMA (2004) it is pertinent that every incorporated companies appoints an external auditor, who is required by law to give an independent opinion on the state of affairs of these corporations, whether or not they show a true and fair view of the financial health of the corporation. The company and allied matters act (CAMA, 2004) states that every auditor shall have the right of access, at all times, to the books, accounts and vouchers of the company and to such information and explanation as may be necessary in the course of carrying out the audit work.

As posited by Knechel (2009), auditing and the audit process provide an evaluation of the probability of material misstatement and reduce the possibility of undetected misstatement to a reasonable or appropriate assurance level. Auditor’s independence has been of serious concern not only to the end users of financial information but to the whole society in general. The need to ensure dependable and high quality audit work has largely focused on auditor’s independence in order to ensure that an auditor is not too familiar with his client, because familiarity will jeopardize the integrity of the auditor and in turn impair their independent opinion as to the financial health of their client. Arrunda (2000), in his view shows that demand for auditing services arose from the need to facilitate dealings between the parties involved in business relationships- shareholders, creditors, public authorities, employees and customers.

1.3 THE ROLE OF AN INDEPENDENT AUDITOR

The objective of the ordinary audit of financial statements by the independent auditor is the expression of an opinion on the fairness with which they present, in all material respects, financial position, results of operations, and its cash flows in conformity with generally accepted accounting principles. The auditor's report is the medium through which he expresses his opinion or, if circumstances require, disclaims an opinion. In either case, he states whether his audit has been made in accordance with generally accepted auditing standards. These standards require him to state whether, in his opinion, the financial statements are presented in conformity with generally accepted accounting principles and to identify those circumstances in which such principles have not been consistently observed in the preparation of the financial statements of the current period in relation to those of the preceding period.

1.4 DISTINCTION BETWEEN RESPONSIBILITIES OF AUDITOR AND MANAGEMENT

      The auditor has a responsibility to plan and perform the audit to obtain reasonable assurance about whether the financial statements are free of material misstatement, whether caused by error or fraud. Because of the nature of audit evidence and the characteristics of fraud, the auditor is able to obtain reasonable, but not absolute, assurance that material misstatements are detected.  The auditor has no responsibility to plan and perform the audit to obtain reasonable assurance that misstatements, whether caused by errors or fraud, that are not material to the financial statements are detected. [Paragraph added, effective for audits of financial statements for periods ending on or after December 15, 1997, by Statement on Auditing Standards No. 82.

The financial statements are management's responsibility. The auditor's responsibility is to express an opinion on the financial statements. Management is responsible for adopting sound accounting policies and for establishing and maintaining internal control that will, among other things, initiate, record, process, and report transactions (as well as events and conditions) consistent with management's assertions embodied in the financial statements. The entity's transactions and the related assets, liabilities, and equity are within the direct knowledge and control of management. The auditor's knowledge of these matters and internal control is limited to that acquired through the audit. Thus, the fair presentation of financial statements in conformity with generally accepted accounting principles  is an implicit and integral part of management's responsibility. The independent auditor may make suggestions about the form or content of the financial statements or draft them, in whole or in part, based on information from management during the performance of the audit. However, the auditor's responsibility for the financial statements he or she has audited is confined to the expression of his or her opinion on them. [Revised, April 1989, to reflect conforming changes necessary due to the issuance of Statement on Auditing Standards Nos. 53 through 62. As amended, effective for audits of financial statements for periods beginning on or after January 1, 1997, by Statement on Auditing Standards No. 78. Paragraph renumbered by the issuance of Statement on Auditing Standards No. 82, February 1997. Revised, April 2002, to reflect conforming changes necessary due to the issuance of Statement on Auditing Standards No. 94.]

1.5 STATEMENT OF RESEARCH PROBLEM

The importance of auditors’ independence opinion on financial statements is undeniable in audit practice. However, still within the capacity to discharge his duties in an organization, the auditor is faced with circumstances that pose as threats to the very essence of the practice. Also, in as much as we try to tackle the issue of lack of auditor independence in the context of this study, the question is: are there board characteristics that influence auditor’s independence and even if such exist, how we can resolve it for the purpose of ensuring auditor independence. It is as such paramount that the relationship between these two concepts must be established in order to provide a lasting resolve to the issue of lack of auditor independence.

Moreover, the issue of compromise of auditor’s independence is rampant in today’s corporate world. With Particular reference to the recent corporate scandals (e.g. Gulf bank, Savanah bank etc) in the Nigerian Banking Industry, the issue of the inability of auditors to independently express a true and fair view of the company records given various circumstances which he finds himself is worth noting. As Hussey and Lan (2001) stated, the client's management is often seen as the client and the auditor wants to do everything he can to make them happy. He as such plays the role of an accommodating auditor in order not to “lose next year's audit as well as the other services being provided” (Hussey and Lan, 2001). Taking this into consideration and given the nature of the geographical setting where corruption is counted for as norms, the resultant effect of such manipulation of auditor independence is the misinformation of the stakeholders of the company. It therefore posits that the standards which the auditor stands by in practice sometimes fail and his independence maneuvered to satisfy his client’s interest.

Therefore, this study aims to examine the influence of board characteristics on auditors’ independence in the Nigerian banking industry. The reason for the choice of board characteristics is that, it is an important tool or mechanism for monitoring and advising, management of corporations to managing the affairs of the business for the benefit of shareholders (Fama & Jensen, 1983).

In the light of the above problems, this research intends to provide answers to the following questions:

    1.How does board size influence auditors’ independence?

      2.How does board composition affect auditors’ independence?

1.6 OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY

The objectives that this research seeks to achieve include the following;

      1.Examine the relationship between board size and auditors’ independence.

      2.Determine the relationship between board composition and auditors’ independence.

1.7 RESEARCH HYPOTHESES

In order to carry out this research, the following research hypotheses are postulated. These hypotheses serve as a guide in shaping and directing the study to a logical conclusion.

HYPOTHESIS 1

    H0:There is no significant relationship between board size and auditors’ independence.

    H1:There is a significant relationship between board size and auditors’ independence.

HYPOTHESIS 2

    H0:There is no significant relationship between board composition and auditors’ independence

     H1:There is a significant relationship between board composition and auditors’ independence

1.7  SCOPE OF THE STUDY

The scope of the study is limited to the examination of the influence of corporate board attributes on auditors’ independence in the Banking Industry. In doing this, Listed Money Deposit Banks are selected as sample to represent the population. This study will be limited to cover the period of 8 years (2006-2013).


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