Audit Committee Meaning Powers Role & Meetings

Section 177  deals with the Audit Committee under the Companies Act 2013. The Following article is a Detailed explanation of Audit Committee Meaning, Audit Committee under Listing agreement, Meeting of Audit Committee, Powers of Audit Committee, Role of Audit Committee etc under the Companies Act 2013. Corporate boards usually consist of the following minimal standing committees:

  1. Audit Committee,
  2. compensation,
  3. executive, and
  4. governance and nominating.

Sometimes, committee names might differ slightly (i.e., the compensation committee may be known as the compensation and benefits committee or the governance and nominating committee may be referred to as the nominating committee).

Audit Committee Meaning Powers Role & Meetings Companies Act 2013

Introduction – Audit Committee  

In the wake of various corporate scandals, both in India and elsewhere, audit committee members are subject to enhanced responsibilities and liabilities. Regulators are conducting more investigations of the actions of directors and officers. Nevertheless, serving as an audit committee member can be a rewarding experience and provides an opportunity to make a difference for a public company, its shareholders, and the investing public.

At the core of the financial reporting process is the audit committee of the company’s board of directors. Audit Committee is now the gatekeeper of financial information that shareholders and the investing public rely upon in order to make informed investment decisions.

Audit Committee (Section 177) – Companies Act 2013

The Act has enlarged the responsibilities of auditors to include monitoring of auditors’ independence, evaluation of their performance, approval of modification of related-party transactions, scrutiny of loans and investments, valuation of assets and evaluation of internal controls and risk management.

They have to establish a vigil mechanism and protection for any whistle-blower. The members must be able to understand financial statements and have a majority of Independent Directors. Large companies must mandatorily have professional internal auditors.

1. The requirement of constitution of Audit Committee has been limited to :

  1.  Every listed Companies; or
  2. The following class of companies –
    1. all public companies with a paid up capital of ten crore rupees or more;
    2. all public companies having turnover of one hundred crore rupees or more;
    3. all public companies, having in aggregate, outstanding loans or borrowings or debentures or deposits exceeding fifty crore rupees or more.

Explanation – The paid up share capital or turnover or outstanding loans, or borrowings or debentures or deposits, as the case may be, as existing on the date of last audited Financial Statements shall be taken into account for the purposes of this rule.

2. The Committee shall comprise of minimum 3 directors with majority of the directors being Independent Directors. The majority of members of audit committee including its chairperson shall be person with ability to read and understand the financial statement

3. A transition period of one year from the date on which the new Act comes into effect has been provided to enable companies to reconstitute the Audit Committee.

4. The terms of reference of the Audit Committee have now been specified and inter alia includes, –

  1. the recommendation for appointment, remuneration and terms of appointment of auditors of the company;
  2. review and monitor the auditor’s independence and performance, and effectiveness of audit process;
  3. examination of the financial statement and the auditors’ report thereon;
  4. approval or any subsequent modification of transactions of the company with related parties;
  5. scrutiny of inter-corporate loans and investments;
  6. valuation of undertakings or assets of the company, wherever it is necessary;
  7. evaluation of internal financial controls and risk management systems;
  8. monitoring the end use of funds raised through public offers and related matters

5. The Audit Committee may call for the comments of the auditors about internal control systems, the scope of audit, including the observations of the auditors and review of financial statement before their submission to the Board and may also discuss any related issues with the internal and statutory auditors and the management of the company.

6. The audit committee hold the authority to investigate into matters or referred by the Board and have the powers to obtain professional advice from external sources and have full access to records of the company.

7. In addition to the auditor, the KMP shall also have a right to be heard in the meetings of the Audit Committee when it considers the auditor’s report, though they shall not have voting rights.

8. Every listed company and the companies belonging to the following class or classes shall establish a vigil mechanism for their directors and employees to report genuine concerns or grievances (Rule 7).

  1. The companies which accept deposits from the public;
  2. The companies which have borrowed money from banks and public financial institutions in excess of fifty crore rupees.

9. The companies which are required to constitute an audit committee shall oversee the vigil mechanism through the committee and if any of the members of the committee have a conflicted of interest in a given case, they should recuse themselves and the others on the committee would deal with the matter on hand.

10. In case of other companies, the Board of directors shall nominate a director to play the role of audit committee for the purpose of vigil mechanism to whom other directors and employees may report their concerns.

11. This vigil mechanism shall provide for adequate safeguards against victimization of employees and directors who avail of the vigil mechanism and also provide for direct access to the chairperson of the Audit committee or the director nominated to play the role of audit committee, as the case may be, in exceptional cases.

12. In case of repeated frivolous complaints being filed by a director or an employee, the audit committee or the director nominated to play the role of audit committee may take suitable action against the concerned director or employee including reprimand.

13. The Vigil Mechanism shall operate for directors and employees to enable them to bring to report genuine concerns. Further the said mechanism shall provide safeguards against victimization and provide for direct access to the chairperson of the Audit Committee in appropriate or exceptional cases.

14. The details of establishment of the Vigil Mechanism is required to be disclosed by the company on its website, if any and in the Board’s report.

Audit Committee under Listing Agreement

In case of Listed Companies, their compliance shall be in accordance with the Corporate Governance provisions enshrined in Clause 49 of the Listing Agreement.

The provisions relating to Audit Committee as contained in the recently amended Clause 49 of the Listing Agreement which will take October 1, 2014 reads as under:

A qualified and independent audit committee shall be set up, giving the terms of reference subject to the following:

  1. The audit committee shall have minimum three directors as members. Two-thirds of the members of audit committee shall be independent directors;
  2. All members of audit committee shall be financially literate and at least one member shall have accounting or related financial management expertise;                                              Explanation 1: The term “financially literate” means the ability to read and understand basic financial statements i.e. balance sheet, profit and loss account, and statement of cash flows.                                                                                                      Explanation 2 : A member will be considered to have accounting or related financial management expertise if he or she possesses experience in finance or accounting, or requisite professional certification in accounting, or any other comparable experience or background which results in the individual’s financial sophistication, including being or having been a chief executive officer, chief financial officer or other senior officer with financial oversight responsibilities.
  3. The Chairman of the Audit Committee shall be an independent director;
  4. The Chairman of the Audit Committee shall be present at Annual General Meeting to answer shareholder queries;
  5. The audit committee may invite such of the executives, as it considers appropriate (and particularly the head of the finance function) to be present at the meetings of the committee, but on occasions it may also meet without the presence of any executives of the company; The finance director, head of internal audit and a representative of the statutory auditor may be present as invitees for the meetings of the audit committee;
  6. The Company Secretary shall act as the secretary to the committee.

Meeting of Audit Committee

The audit committee should meet at least four times in a year and not more than four months shall elapse between two meetings. The quorum shall be either two members or one third of the members of the audit committee whichever is greater, but there should be a minimum of two independent members present.

Powers of Audit Committee

The audit committee shall have powers, which should include the following:

  1. To investigate any activity within its terms of reference.
  2. To seek information from any employee.
  3. To obtain outside legal or other professional advice.
  4. To secure attendance of outsiders with relevant expertise, if it considers necessary

Role of Audit Committee

The role of the audit committee shall include the following:

1. Oversight of the company’s financial reporting process and the disclosure of its financial information to ensure that the financial statement is correct, sufficient and credible.

2. Recommending to the Board, the appointment, re-appointment and, if required, the replacement or removal of the statutory auditor and the fixation of audit fees.

3. Approval of payment to statutory auditors for any other services rendered by the statutory auditors.

4. Reviewing, with the management, the annual financial statements before submission to the board for approval, with particular reference to:

  1. Matters to be included in the Director’s Responsibility Statement to be included in the Board’s report;
  2. Changes, if any, in accounting policies and practices and reasons for the same;
  3. Major accounting entries involving estimates based on the exercise of judgment by management;
  4. Significant adjustments made in the financial statements arising out of audit findings;
  5. Compliance with listing and other legal requirements relating to financial statements;
  6. Disclosure of any related party transactions;
  7. Qualifications in the draft audit report.

5. Reviewing, with the management, the quarterly financial statements before submission to the board for approval.

6. Reviewing, with the management, the statement of uses / application of funds raised through an issue (public issue, rights issue, preferential issue, etc.), the statement of funds utilized for purposes other than those stated in the offer document / prospectus / notice and the report submitted by the monitoring agency monitoring the utilisation of proceeds of a public or rights issue, and making appropriate recommendations to the Board to take up steps in this matter.

7. Review and monitor the auditor’s independence and performance, and effectiveness of audit process.

8. Approval or any subsequent modification of transactions of the company with related parties.

9. Scrutiny of inter-corporate loans and investments.

10. Valuation of undertakings or assets of the company, wherever it is necessary.

11. Evaluation of internal financial controls and risk management systems.

12. Reviewing, with the management, performance of statutory and internal auditors, adequacy of the internal control systems.

13. Reviewing the adequacy of internal audit function, if any, including the structure of the internal audit department, staffing and seniority of the official heading the department, reporting structure coverage and frequency of internal audit.

14. Discussion with internal auditors of any significant findings and follow up there on.

15. Reviewing the findings of any internal investigations by the internal auditors into matters where there is suspected fraud or irregularity or a failure of internal control systems of a material nature and reporting the matter to the board.

16. Discussion with statutory auditors before the audit commences, about the nature and scope of audit as well as post-audit discussion to ascertain any area of concern.

17. To look into the reasons for substantial defaults in the payment to the depositors, debenture holders, shareholders (in case of non-payment of declared dividends) and creditors.

18. To review the functioning of the Whistle Blower mechanism

19. Approval of appointment of CFO (i.e., the whole-time Finance Director or any other person heading the finance function or discharging that function) after assessing the qualifications, experience and background, etc. of the candidate.

20. Carrying out any other function as is mentioned in the terms of reference of the Audit Committee.

Explanation (i): The term “related party transactions” shall have the same meaning as provided in Clause 49(VII) of the Listing Agreement.

Review of information by Audit Committee

  1. The Audit Committee shall mandatorily review the following information:
  2. Management discussion and analysis of financial condition and results of operations;
  3. Statement of significant related party transactions (as defined by the audit committee), submitted by management;
  4. Management letters/letters of internal control weaknesses issued by the statutory auditors;
  5. Internal audit reports relating to internal control weaknesses; and
  6. The appointment, removal and terms of remuneration of the Chief internal auditor shall be subject to review by the Audit Committee.

Thus, it can be observed that the role of Audit Committee in listed companies will be governed both by the provisions of the Listing Agreement and the revised Section 177 of the Companies Act, 2013.

Conclusion 

The above all information About the Audit Committee. Audit Committee under the Companies Act 2013. Along with the Audit Committee also explained the Role of Audit Committee, Powers of Audit Committee etc. For any doubts and quarries Comment below.