COVID-19: The implications for financial reporting and audit in the public sector

The External Reporting Board (XRB) and the Centre for Accounting Governance and Taxation Research held a joint webinar on 15 July to discuss the implications of Covid-19 for financial reporting and audit in the public sector.

Professor Tony van Zijl, Director of the Centre, introduced the panel: Chair of the panel was Ian Ball, Professor in Practice - Public Financial Management at the Wellington School of Business and Government, and Chair of the Audit Committee for the financial statements of the New Zealand Government; the other members of the panel were Francis Caetano, member of the Accounting Standards Board (NZASB) of the XRB and Group Financial Controller at Auckland Council, Robert Cox, member of the Audit and Assurance Standards Board of the XRB and of the Technical Reference Group to the NZASB, and Audit Director and Head of Accounting at Audit New Zealand, Angela Ryan, member of the NZASB and Principal Accounting Advisor at The Treasury, and Stephen Walker, Executive Director of Audit New Zealand and thus leader of the Auditor General’s audit practice.

Ian Ball facilitated the panel discussion which included consideration of fair value measurement, impairment of assets, expected credit loss assessment, assessment of going concern, and audit reporting.  Francis Caetano provided the local government perspective on these topics, Robert Cox the audit perspective, Angela Ryan the central government perspective with special reference to issues arising in preparation of the consolidated financial statements, and Stephen Walker addressed the big picture issues on both financial reporting and audit, in particular, the need for high quality reporting and audit to maintain public trust and confidence in the operation of the public sector. Among the lessons learned from the current crisis were the need for entities to have a sound business continuity plan and during a crisis to maintain open communication with staff and related entities. April Mackenzie, CEO of the XRB, thanked the panel members and in closing remarks commented on the emphasis panel members had placed on the importance of timely and realistic assessment of the issues that had arisen from the crisis. April noted that the webinar had been attended by 215 people.