The challenges of auditing environmental matters in financial reports
This study investigated the challenges and issues auditors face when auditing material environmental matters relevant for financial reporting. This study adopted an interpretive methodology. Qualitative interviews with 18 New Zealand audit partners and managers from the North and South Islands provided the research findings. Legitimacy theory informed the interpretation of the research findings.
The research findings revealed that auditors could risk not considering environmental matters and environmental risks exposure in audit planning if disclosures are not made in the financial report or communicated to the auditor; also for new clients or clients not operating in obviously environmentally sensitive industries or sector. The auditors are further challenged by keeping up with the prolific environmental laws and regulations. AGS-1010 recommended that auditors apply the accounting standard for ‘Provisions, Contingent Liabilities and Contingent Assets’, however, it is subjective and creates some confusion in its application. Generally, auditors do seek technical advice but there are few suitable qualified environmental experts in New Zealand to assist them.
The general implication is that the audit of significant environmental matters seems to extend the boundary of financial audits, reflecting perhaps unreasonable expectations of auditors’ knowledge of environmental issues and auditing environmental matters.