Issue 51 | July-September 2020 7 ETHICS INTERNATIONAL ETHICS STANDARDS BOARD FOR ACCOUNTANTS (IESBA) The IRBA Issues for Comment an Exposure Draft on the Use of Electronic Signatures When Signing Audit, Review or Other Assurance Reports The IRBA’s Committee for Auditor Ethics (CFAE) approved the issuing of the proposed amendments to Subsection 115, Professional Behaviour: Signing Conventions for Reports , of the IRBA Code of Professional Conduct for Registered Auditors (Revised November 2018): Electronic Signatures (proposed amendments to the IRBA Code), on exposure in August 2020 for public comment by 21 September 2020 . The Electronic Communications and Transactions Act, 2002 (No. 25 of 2002) (ECT Act), legislates the use of electronic signatures in South Africa. The main object of the ECT Act is to enable and facilitate electronic communications and transactions in the public interest. The use of ordinary electronic signatures and advanced electronic signatures by registered auditors to sign their audit, review or other assurance reports has become more widespread in recent years. This is due to more financial statements being made available electronically on company websites, fewer paper-based engagement files and remote working arrangements. During the COVID-19 pandemic, it has become even more prevalent for registered auditors to make use of electronic signatures in signing their audit, review or other assurance reports. It is expected that electronic signatures may continue to be widely used. The proposed amendments to the IRBA Code include the following: • The inclusion of an introductory section, with a background on the use of electronic signatures, as required by the ECT Act. • The inclusion of a requirement that the individual registered auditor responsible for the audit, review or other assurance engagement shall, when signing any audit, review or other assurance report, make use of either: (a) A wet-ink signature; (b) A licenced and secure ordinary electronic signature; or (c) An advanced electronic signature that is/are the firm’s authorised means of signing any audit, review or other assurance report. • The inclusion of application material to support the requirement. • Minor conforming and other amendments. In accordance with the provisions of Section 10(1)(a) of the Auditing Profession Act, 2005 (Act No. 26 of 2005) (the Act), the IRBA may, by notice in the Government Gazette and pursuant to the provisions of Section 4(1)(c) of the Act, publish, for public information and comment, an amendment to the IRBA Code. Accordingly, Board Notice No. 96 of 2020 to the same effect was published in Government Gazette No. 43632 for public comment for a minimum period of 30 days. The CFAE welcomes comments on all matters addressed in the proposed amendments to the IRBA Code, especially those identified in the Request for Specific Comments section of the Explanatory Memorandum. Comments, in Word format, should be submitted by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org . All comments will be considered a matter of public record. A copy of the exposure draft is available in PDF format and may be downloaded from the exposure drafts page on the IRBA website . IMPORTANT NOTICE Impression Signatures (Pty) Ltd has not been accredited by the South African Accreditation Authority for the authentication and certification of products and services used in support of advanced electronic signatures, as indicated in error on page six of the Explanatory Memorandum of the Exposure Draft: Proposed Amendments to Subsection 115, Professional Behaviour: Signing Conventions for Reports or Certificates, of the IRBA Code of Professional Conduct for Registered Auditors (Revised November 2018): Electronic Signatures . APESB and IESBA Staff Collaborate on Ethics Guidance for Professional Accountants Navigating COVID-19 Circumstances The staff of the Accounting Professional & Ethical Standards Board (APESB) and the IESBA have released a new publication, Applying the Code’s Conceptual Framework in COVID-19 Circumstances: Scenarios in Taxation and Valuation Services. The publication provides guidance to professional accountants in applying the conceptual framework in the International Code of Ethics for Professional Accountants (including International Independence Standards) (the Code) during certain circumstances brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. It uses four hypothetical scenarios covering services or activities relating to taxation and valuation services. Two scenarios include guidance for professional accountants in public practice, and the other two are focused on professional accountants in business.