How does NFRA seek to uphold auditor independence

Posted By: Aditya Gogoi Posted On: Aug 19, 2023
NFRA has issued stringent orders against auditors it has found to have erred in their duties, including imposing penalties and debarring them. (Photo: iStock)

Audit regulator National Financial Reporting Authority (NFRA) is making sustained efforts to ensure that auditors who sign off on financial statements of companies and banks are independent. Mint takes a look at steps taken by the regulator.

Why is auditor independence crucial?

To draw investments, the reliability of financial statements and governance in Indian firms is essential, especially as policy makers actively promote India's prospects to global investors, aiming for developed country status within the next 25 years. Auditor independence has emerged as a significant concern. Past corporate failures have revealed vulnerabilities in certain audit firms' practices and potential undue influence from management.

Family-run businesses dominate India's corporate landscape, with many family members of majority shareholders also serving as top executives. While audit committees featuring independent directors exist, the fact that audit fees come directly from the company sometimes hampers perceived auditor independence.

Financial discrepancies within companies often arise either from shareholders channeling company funds to closely-associated entities for personal benefit or individual fraud.

What is the mandate of NFRA?

The NFRA is tasked with enforcing adherence to accounting and auditing standards and supervising the quality of service of professionals responsible for such compliance. The agency also advises the government on accounting and auditing policies for adoption by corporations. Its oversight encompasses statutory auditors of listed entities, banks, insurers, power utilities, sizable unlisted public companies, and any other organizations referred by the government.

What are the major steps taken by NFRA to uphold auditor independence?

NFRA speaks through its orders. Its audit quality review reports and disciplinary orders against erring auditors explain the regulator's expectations from the auditors and the legal requirements auditors are expected to comply with under laws, rules and guidelines including of Institute of Chartered Accountants of India.

NFRA has issued stringent orders against auditors it has found to have erred in their duties, including imposing penalties and debarring them. In the case of audit of Infrastructure Leasing & Financial Services Ltd. (IL&FS) group entities for FY18, NFRA has laid down interpretations of auditor independence norms. The watchdog has clarified through its orders what constitutes a ‘management service', which an auditor is prohibited from offering, both directly and indirectly to an audit client.

In the absence of a definition in the Companies Act, "management services" have to be understood in their literal meaning as services performed by the statutory auditor for the management, according to the watchdog. Also, NFRA has given detailed analysis of network relationships that are common in the audit industry and how these could violate auditor independence norms. Some of the audit firms have gone to court challenging the regulator on these.

What are the key areas where NFRA wants a mindset change among auditors and company management?

NFRA has emphasised that quitting audit assignment does not absolve a statutory auditor of his responsibility to report fraud noticed during the audit. According to NFRA, it is a misconception among auditors that resigning from audit engagement will absolve them from consequences of not reporting a fraud, NFRA said in June in an announcement. The regulator wants auditors to exercise their professional skepticism and not be influenced by the management.

Also, NFRA has highlighted that audit documentation is vital. In an order issued last month, it explained that ongoing negotiations with banks and non-bank lenders for restructuring loans does not absolve a company from its responsibility to recognise interest cost in financial statements and that statutory auditors cannot wash their hands off their obligation to raise a red flag for such omission.

Source: Live Mint
Related Posts: NFRA,CORPORATE,BUSINESSES,AUDITORS,CORPORATE AUDIT

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Key trends shaping debt resolution under IBC

Posted By: Aditya Gogoi Posted On: Sep 19, 2023
At the end of the June quarter, of the 6,811 cases admitted in the NCLT, 3,034 cases were initiated by financial creditors, accounting for 45% of the cases.. (Mint)

The Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC) that came into force in 2016 has helped clean up the balance sheets of businesses and lenders and changed the behaviour of corporate borrowers. The major users of the IBC to initiate bankruptcy action are financial creditors, such as banks and institutions, and operational creditors, such as suppliers to distressed companies. Mint takes a look at the latest trends in the operation of the code.

Who triggers bankruptcy action most under IBC?

Under the IBC, in addition to operational and financial creditors, distressed companies can also initiate debt resolution action. Official data show that financial creditors like banks and institutions and operational creditors like suppliers to distressed company are the major users of IBC in initiating bankruptcy action. At the end of the June quarter, of the 6,811 cases admitted in the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT), 3,034 cases were initiated by financial creditors, accounting for 45% of the cases. Operational creditors initiated 3,369 cases and corporate debtor initiated 408 cases. In the initial years of IBC--FY18 to FY22, operational creditors were the largest class of stakeholders to initiate bankruptcy action. However, that has changed in FY23, when financial creditors overtook operational creditors in terms of the number of bankruptcy action initiated. That trend has also continued in the June quarter.

Why operational creditor-initiated bankruptcy proceedings are declining?

A key observation made by experts about the operation of IBC so far has been that many parties have attempted to use it as a tool for recovery of dues although IBC has been conceptualised as a forum to rescue viable companies and to liquidate unviable ones quickly before the value of their assets erodes. Experts believe that the jurisprudence evolved by courts and adjudicatory authorities over the years that the IBC should not be treated as a recovery mechanism is helping to change creditor behaviour. Also, the fact that operational creditors do not get to be part of the committee of creditors set up under a tribunal's watch to restructure the defaulting company is proving to be a disincentive for them to invoke IBC.

Why past transactions of bankrupt firms are being questioned?

Increasingly, resolution professionals are bringing the past questionable transactions of distressed companies under the scanner. The idea is to see if those transactions executed in the period when the company was facing financial troubles, but before its admission to NCLT for debt resolution, involved any financial irregularity or were meant to divert funds. The law allows a resolution professional to approach the tribunal to annul an undervalued transaction of the bankrupt company dating back up to two years in the case of related party transactions and up to one year in the case of others.

What is the extent of such transactions questioned by resolution professionals?

So far, 947 such ‘voidable' transactions worth ₹2.95 trillion have been questioned by resolution professionals, of which 200 transactions worth ₹44,871 have been dealt with by the tribunals, and over ₹5,200 crore have been recovered, as per data from IBBI. In the June quarter, 76 cases involving ₹10,220 crore of allegedly questionable past transactions of insolvent companies have been taken to tribunals by resolution professionals.

Source: Live Mint
Related Posts: BANKRUPTCY CODE,INSOLVENCY AND BANKRUPTCY CODE,BANKRUPTCY PROCEEDINGS,IBC,NCLT,CORPORATE BORROWERS,RESOLUTION PROFESSIONALS

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India showcases PM Gatishakti National Master Plan at ADB Conference in Georgia

Posted By: Anita Mamgai Posted On: Sep 07, 2023
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had launched PM Gati Shakti in October 2021. (File Photo: HT)

New Delhi: India on Thursday showcased PM Gatishakti National Master Plan at the Asian Development Bank's 2023 Regional Cooperation and Integration Conference in Tbilisi, Georgia, Ministry of Commerce & Industry said in a statement.

The conference, being held during 7-9 September, saw participation from more than 30 member countries comprising senior officials of ADB's Developing Member Countries responsible for ECD, representatives of Development partner agencies and Regional cooperation organizations.

Indian delegation was led by Sumita Dawra, special secretary (Logistics), Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT), Ministry of Commerce and Industry.

The Indian delegation said that PM GatiShakti – National Master Plan for Multi-modal Connectivity, a Made in India initiative, is a transformative ‘whole-of-government' approach for integrated planning of multimodal infrastructure connectivity to economic nodes and social infrastructure, thereby improving logistics efficiency.

The delegation said that the PM Gati Shakti principles bring socio-economic area-based development as part of regional connectivity.

The government's targeted interventions, huge capex push to infrastructure investments and adoption of geospatial and other cutting-edge technologies towards have been transforming the entire logistics and infrastructure ecosystem, the delegation added.

Source: Live Mint
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Banks not reporting interest income on bad loans doesn't absolve defaulters

Posted By: Ajay Rawat Posted On: Aug 23, 2023
This accounting treatment by the lending bank cannot be a premise for the borrower to stop accruing the interest liability in their books of accounts. (Photo: iStock)

New Delhi: Banks not recognizing any interest income on bad loans by following RBI's prudential norms does not absolve borrowers from the obligation to show the interest liability on their financial statements, audit regulator National Financial Reporting Authority (NFRA) said in an order.

NFRA said that defaulters do not get free from the obligation to recognise interest liability as banks are required to maintain a record of accrued interest on bad loans and do not release the borrower from the contractual liability to pay interest.

NFRA said in a disciplinary order issued against a Jharkhand-based audit firm and a chartered accountant that the contention of auditors that since no interest was being charged by the bank, there was no obligation on the audited company to recognize interest cost, was not correct.

The auditors are completely wrong in their assumption that the lending bank did not charge interest on the borrowings classified as non-performing assets (NPAs), NFRA said. The banks do discontinue, in their accounts, the recognition of interest income on the assets classified as NPAs based on the prudential norms of the RBI, explained NFRA.

"However, RBI guidelines also require the banks to maintain a memorandum record of accrued interest on the NPAs, clearly reflecting the fact that the bank has not legally released the borrower from their contractual liability to pay interest...," the audit watchdog explained in its order posted on its website.

The outstanding balance of the customer will include the interest charged by the bank on such borrowings along with some penal interest as per the contract between the customer and the bank, NFRA said.

"This accounting treatment by the lending bank cannot be a premise for the borrower to stop accruing the interest liability in their books of accounts. The borrower will continue to be covered by the provisions of Indian Accounting Standard (Ind AS) 109 in relation to discharge of a liability..," the audit regulator said.

The watchdog has been trying to create awareness about auditor independence norms. NFRA wants auditors to exercise professional skepticism and do thorough due diligence of the financial statements they are certifying. NFRA has also made the point that quitting an audit assignment does not absolve the auditor of his responsibility to report any fraud that has come to his notice.

"Statutory audits provide useful information to the stakeholders and public, based on which they make their decisions on their investments or do transactions with the public interest entity. Without a credible audit, investors, creditors and other users of financial statements would be handicapped," the regulator said.

The entire corporate governance system would fail and result in a breakdown in trust and confidence of investors and the public at large if auditors do not perform their job with professional skepticism and due diligence and adhere to the standard, NFRA said.

Source: Live Mint
Related Posts: BAD LOANS,DEFAULTERS,NFRA,RBI,INTEREST INCOME,BANKS,FINANCIAL REPORTING

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NFRA imposes penalty on auditors of Coffee Day Enterprises arm

Posted By: Pawan George Posted On: Aug 22, 2023
NFRA started investigations into TDL's auditors after Sebi shared an investigation into alleged diversion of funds from certain arms of Coffee Day Enterprises Ltd. to a promoter held entity, the NFRA order said. (HT)

New Delhi: The National Financial Reporting Authority (NFRA) has imposed hefty penalty on the auditors of Tanglin Developments Ltd. (TDL), a group company of Coffee Day Enterprises Ltd. for alleged lapses in the audit of FY20 as part of a series of investigations into alleged financial irregularities in the group, showed an official order.

NFRA imposed a monetary penalty of ₹one crore on audit firm Sundaresha & Associates and debarred it for four years from being appointed as an auditor or internal auditor of any company, showed the order posted on the regulator's website.

The audit firm, however, has challenged the show cause notice issued by NFRA before courts. "The auditors have questioned the legality of the show cause notice and the investigations done by NFRA. The auditors are before various courts...and since the matter is sub judice, this order does not deal with them," NFRA said about the issues raised in the auditor's petitions before courts.

NFRA also acknowledged that the auditor had provided a 'disclaimer of opinion' in the audit report because of the significance of certain matters flagged in the audit report, on financial statements and internal financial control over financial reporting.

An auditor's disclaimer is used when the auditor is unable to form an opinion on the overall financial statements. It indicates that the auditor does not express any opinion about the accuracy or fairness of the financial statements.

NFRA also said that the audit firm was unable to comment whether books of accounts as required by the law have been kept by the company and whether the Financial Statements complied with the accounting standards, because of the matters flagged by the auditor in the audit report.

NFRA alleged that the auditor has failed in its statutory duty and did not report fraudulent diversion of funds. The regulator said the auditors have maintained that they have given the disclaimer of opinion that certain funds are not recoverable. "The standards on auditing do not free an auditor from reporting all other mis-statements once a disclaimer on a particular aspect is given," NFRA explained.

The regulator also imposed monetary penalty on two audit engagement partners of the firm and debarred them for five years. An email sent to the spokesperson for CCD and to the audit firm and the engagement partners on Monday seeking comments for the story remained unanswered at the time of publishing.

NFRA started investigations into TDL's auditors after capital market regulator Sebi shared an investigation into alleged diversion of funds from certain arms of Coffee Day Enterprises Ltd. to a promoter held entity, the NFRA order said.

Source: Live Mint
Related Posts: COFFEE DAY ENTERPRISES,NFRA,AUDITORS,TANGLIN DEVELOPMENTS,SUNDARESHA & ASSOCIATES

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NARCL may wind up SEFL the equipment finance arm of Srei group

Posted By: Pawan George Posted On: Aug 14, 2023
The loan repayment process may extend for the next seven years, the report said

After completing the takeover of two companies of the Srei group through NCLT route, the National Asset Reconstruction Company Ltd (NARCL) is likely to retain only one of the acquired companies, the PTI reported citing the sources.

After NARCL emerged as the winning bidder for the two Srei group firms -- Srei Infrastructure Finance Ltd (SIFL) and Srei Equipment Finance Ltd (SEFL) -- through a bidding process in February, the Kolkata bench of the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) approved the resolution plan of the state-owned asset reconstruction company NARCL for takeover of the twin Srei firms under Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code.

"According to the resolution plan submitted, the NARCL will cease all fresh lending activities in the group's equipment financing arm -- SEFL, and after recovering the outstanding debt, it will be 'wound up'," the PTI reported citing the official sources.

The loan repayment process may extend for the next seven years, the sources added.

At present, most of the assets remain within SEFL's books due to a previous restructuring.

"As outlined in the resolution plan, NARCL, upon assuming control of the companies, will abstain from pursuing fresh lending from SEFL. The non-banking financial company (NBFC) will be dissolved once its outstanding debt is recuperated and ongoing court cases are settled," the PTI reported citing official close to the development.

"SIFL with a cleaner balance sheet and a few legal imbroglios will be revitalised, and fresh lending operations will be conducted under this entity. Regulatory authorities are also aligned with this perspective, as previously discussed," the official said.

This strategy aims at ensuring business continuity and safeguarding employment.

In February, the Committee of Creditors (CoC) for the Srei group firms endorsed NARCL's resolution plan, as the company has garnered the highest vote share of 89.2%.

There were three final contenders for Srei companies.

NARCL offered a Net Present Value (NPV) bid of ₹5,555 crore.

Authum Investment and Infrastructure secured the second-highest vote with 84.86% through a bid of ₹5,526 crore. The consortium comprising Varde Partners and Arena Investors with a financial bid of approximately ₹4,680 crore, secured the third spot with around 9% of the vote, according to the official.

The total value of NARCL's resolution plan stands at ₹14,301 crore, encompassing a cash component of ₹3,001 crore, debentures and security receipts amounting to ₹3,300 crore, along with an uncommitted payment of ₹8,000 crore via Optionally Convertible Debentures (OCDs).

Source: Live Mint
Related Posts: SREI GROUP,NARCL,SEFL,SIFL,- SREI INFRASTRUCTURE FINANCE LTD,IBC,NBFC'

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Airtel launches self-serve marketing communications platform for firms

Posted By: Tarun Kumar Posted On: Aug 01, 2023
The Airtel IQ Reach portal is now live for communications via WhatsApp and will be rolled out on SMS, voice and other channels shortly. (Photo: Mint)

New Delhi: Bharti Airtel, India’s second largest telecommunications service provider, has launched Airtel IQ Reach, a first-of-its-kind self-serve marketing communications platform, which will enable brands or companies to drive targeted customer engagements through personalized communications.

Airtel IQ Reach is an intuitive platform that will enable small and medium businesses to make the most of their marketing investments as they engage with target customers in a cost-effective manner with prepaid pay-as-you-go plans, the company said on Tuesday.

“Our customers are at the heart of everything we do. We have designed Airtel IQ Reach especially for the SMB segment to enable them to elevate their customer communication. The platform leverages cutting-edge technology along with Airtel's strengths of infrastructure, data and engineering expertise to facilitate enterprises in targeted customer communications. Our customers can now capitalise on the platform for their business growth even as they reduce their customer acquisition costs and target the right audience at the right time with the right personalised communication through our innovative solution," said Abhishek Biswal, Head – Digital Products & Services, Airtel Business.

This self-serve portal will be a one-stop destination to empower businesses, especially emerging businesses, to have full control of their campaign execution, by simply logging on to a single portal for designing customized messages, uploading or selecting their target audiences, scheduling their messages and, finally, tracking campaign effectiveness, all in just a few clicks.

The platform will also offer real time insights and comprehensive analytics on a centralized dashboard with the aim of enabling businesses to measure their campaign effectiveness.

Airtel IQ Reach will help small and medium-sized businesses solve key challenges when planning marketing campaigns, like identifying the right audience, tracking campaign effectiveness, managing multiple channels to reach their audience, among others.

The Airtel IQ Reach portal is now live for communications via WhatsApp and will be rolled out on SMS, voice and other channels shortly.

Airtel IQ is an omni-channel cloud communications platform that unifies cloud communication and customer experience management to enable brands to engage with their customers across voice, SMS and WhatsApp channels.

Source: Live Mint
Related Posts: BHARTI AIRTEL,COMMUNICATIONS PLATFORM,AIRTEL IQ REACH,MARKETING COMMUNICATIONS PLATFORM,CUSTOMER ENGAGEMENTS,SMALL BUSINESSES

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IRB Infra Q1 Results

Posted By: Jogendra Kumar Posted On: Jul 31, 2023
Financial companies may report their Q1FY24 earnings on a healthy note. (Pixabay)

IRB Infrastructure Developers announced its April-June quarter results for fiscal 2023-24 (Q1FY24) reported a decline of 63 per cent in net profit at ₹133.67 crore, compared to ₹363.19 crore in the corresponding quarter last year. The fall in profit was dragged by lower income during the quarter-under-review. The company's total income in the first quarter of the current fiscal also declined to ₹1,745.47 crore, compared to ₹1,995.40 crore a year ago.

The company witnessed an aggregate toll collection growth of 18 per cent year-on-year for the quarter under review in the assets under IRB Infra portfolio and the assets under IRB Infrastructure Trust. The toll collection for the April-June quarter stood at ₹1,183 crore, compared to ₹1,000 crore in the corresponding quarter of the last fiscal.

IRB Infra bagged the TOT concession for Jawaharlal Nehru outer ring road project in Telangana for the concession period of 30 years. The concession agreement has been executed with the Hyderabad Metropolitan Development Authority. With the project, the company's share in the TOT market went up to 37 per cent of the total TOT projects awarded - the largest by any private player in India.

The company also executed the concession agreement for Rs.2,132 crore Samakhiyali Santalpur BOT Project in Gujarat. It is in process of achieving financial closures for Hyderabad ORR TOT project and Samakhiyali Santalpur BOT project and is in advance stages.

“We continue to witness robust momentum in toll collection. Recently added projects of Hyderabad ORR TOT and Samakhiyali to Santalpur BOT project are set to commence during Q2 and will meaningfully contribute to both, toll collection as well as construction segment, from Q3 onwards,'' said Virendra D. Mhaiskar, Chairman & Managing Director, IRB Infrastructure Developers Limited.

‘'We have traditionally witnessed higher levels of activity in the second half for both our segments which gives us confidence that we will further build upon this performance in the second half of the financial year,'' add Mhaiskar.

On July 31, shares of IRB Infra settled 0.68 per cent lower at ₹26.48 apiece on the BSE.

Source: Live Mint
Related Posts: IRB INFRA Q1 RESULTS,IRB INFRA Q1FY24,IRB INFRA EARNINGS,IRB INFRA Q1 NET PROFIT

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