The assurance line of service (LoS) in PwC-Ghana serves various industries, which include consumer and industrial products (CIPS); Energy, Utilities and Mining; Financial Services and Government & Public sector. In terms of the clientele served, the line of service differentiates between private sector and public sector in view of differences in client needs, employees’ skills and processes needed to provide solutions to them. For private sector clients, the LoS provides services described as Statutory Audit/other assurance and Systems & Process Assurance. For public sector clients, the LoS provides Public sector audit and Fund Management assurance services. Figure 4.1 below gives an overview of the assurance line of service in terms of the services provided to the different category of clients identified.
Figure 4.1: Overview of Assurance line of service
Notwithstanding the different services and clientele served, the sub LoS interact a lot sharing expertise, staff and at times common training though their approach to work somewhat differ. The approach to work in each of these sub LoS may differ based on the requirements of a particular assignment or project but there are a lot of similarities as well.
PwC implement consultancy projects according to work plan stages such as Planning, Execution and Completion. In terms of specifics, audit assignments are generally guided by either International or National Standards, which include International Standards on Auditing (ISA) and Ghana Auditing Standards (GAS). In order to ensure that all assignments conform to quality standards set by PwC, all assignments also follow procedures set out in the PwC methodology. They include planning requirements, detailed execution tasks for areas of financial statements covered in the audit, completion and documentation among others. The methodology for any assignment conforms to the auditing Standards applicable for the particular project. Non-audit assurance projects are also guided by International Standards on Assurance Engagement (ISAE). The Standards have requirements for planning and completion, which can be described as high level since, unlike audit, non-audit assurance projects take different forms. There are, however, no tasks specified in the Standards for execution, since it is very much assignment specific. Notwithstanding, teams and sometimes the contracting party specify tasks to be performed, which may be tested through a pilot project before it is rolled out fully for the whole project depending on the complexity and size of project. In view of the Standards that set the tone for the projects, planning for these assignments is very detailed and includes daily tasks for team members. The duration of the projects are also fixed during the planning stage and are usually adhered to. Modifications to the plans are also very minimal. In terms of classification, projects are generally structured even where they are considered complex or simple. In line with this a complex project is usually identified in terms of its big size, value, risks, stakeholders and where the firm has not performed executed such project before. Notwithstanding, risks are identified and detailed tasks are planned for execution.
Within the Assurance LoS, there are still other assignments or projects that may not yield to detailed task definitions. These are classified as ‘executory projects’ and usually involve systems and process change management handled by the Systems and Process Assurance (SPA) sub LoS. For such projects, the tasks are hands-on and require continuous reviews to ensure the objectives set out are being achieved. Such projects are also divided into phases and each phase will have a complete work plan with segments such as planning, execution and completion. The work plans for each phase are however, agreed at the beginning of the whole assignment and adjusted as the project unfolds. For such assignments, the agreed work plans are reviewed at the beginning of each phase. All team members are involved in planning for every assignment.
Teams are constant feature within projects at PwC. The teams for assurance projects are selected and booked for the period of the assignment through a database called ‘RETAIN’. The database has information on staff availability and access is given to assignment managers, who book staff on projects they handle. Staff have little choice as to which project they would like to be involved in since expertise are not so high and all are conversant with the methodology training. Team roles are set out at the beginning of assignments during planning meetings, which all team members are required to attend. Team roles for audit and other assurance projects normally have the structure in Table 4.1 below
Though the structure in Table 4.1 may be standard, there are variations depending on the size of the assignment and whether special expertises are needed. It must be noted that the Quality Review role is not used for all projects. During the planning meeting, teams also agree other meetings during the execution stage, which are described as ‘Taking Stock’ meetings. The number of ‘taking stock’ meetings held for any particular assignment depends on the extent to which detailed tasks have been tried and tested. Where the details are very much known and tested, fewer taking stock meetings are held than where the details are not tested though they may be known. Where there are modifications to original plan, they are communicated to team members at taking stock meetings or placed in a database referred to as ‘client file’, where all team members can access. At the end of any assignment, a ‘Debrief’ meeting is held to discuss and document lessons learnt from the assignment, which is rolled forward to subsequent assignments.
From Table 4.1 above, Project leadership, which is made up of the QRP, EL and PM are not involved in the field work but provide direction in terms of quality, strategy and project management. There are, however, instances that require the EL and/or PM to be on the field to review work when the assignment has some complexities. Project Leadership involvement in assurance projects usually includes attendance at planning meetings, consultations on areas that need their advice, and review of work for quality and conformity to technical underpinnings. Their involvement in ‘Executory’ projects are however more intense as the PM at times will have to be on the field on a daily basis, whiles weekly meetings are held with EL and sometimes QRP to ensure objectives are being achieved. Such meetings may involve the client.
For assurance LoS projects, involvement of client is done at various stages with different objectives. At the planning stage, the client is required to provide information such as documents that are necessary for effective planning. The planning document is also communicated to the client to obtain their concurrence on issues such as timing and availability of staff for responding to queries. During the execution stage, which normally takes place at the client office, the client staff are required to avail themselves for questioning and also provide information as and when needed. During the completion stage, issues are discussed and draft reports sent to clients for their comments before the report is finalised. For projects that PwC is implementing change, at least a client staff is involved in the assignment as a de-facto member of the team. The client staff, aside providing information, gives direct input into the process usually based on experience with the system or process being modified and how it is likely to impact on the organisation and their work. The client staff is also required to study the system, become a ‘champion’ and eventually a trainer to other staff. In summary, client involvement in assurance projects is limited to provision of information and concurring on the report of the assignment with the exception of executory projects where clients get involved in all aspects of the project.