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Objectives of Financial Accounting for Islamic Banks and IFIs and Objective and Principles of Auditing April 15, 2009

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Accounting encompasses several areas, generally agreed to include financial accounting, managerial accounting, cost accounting, and accounting for non-for-profit organizations. We are concerned here only with financial accounting.

3/1     Financial accounting

Financial accounting has developed over time for many practical considerations relating to the need of entities to determine their financial rights and obligations, and results of operations, and to inform present and potential parties concerned with the affairs of the entity of its financial position, the results of its operations and its cash flows. This information is intended to assist those parties in making suitable decisions with respect to the entity. Thus financial accounting plays an important role in directing economic resources in society to different entities as a result of the decisions made by the parties concerned with the affairs of those entities. These decisions are based, among other things, on information available to them through financial accounting which ranks as one of the important sources of the basic information required for decision making. During the period of its development, a number of rules and principles have been accumulated which specify the processes of financial accounting, its general objectives and limitations.

3/2     The financial accounting processes

Financial accounting consists of the following processes:

(a)      Accounting recognition of an entity’s financial rights and obligations as of a given date and changes in those rights and obligations resulting from consummated transactions and other events during a given period.

(b)     Measurement of the financial effect of consummated transactions and the impact of other events during a given period.

(c)     Classifying the financial effect of consummated transactions and other events for the purpose of determining the entity’s results of operations and other changes in its financial position including its cash flows.

(d)     Preparing periodic reports about the entity’s financial position as of a given date and the results of its operations and cash flows during a given period.

3/3     The general objectives of financial accounting

The main objective of financial accounting is to provide information, through periodic reports, about the entity’s financial position, its results of operations and cash flows, to assist users of such reports in making decisions. The financial statements (statement of financial position, income statement, the statement of cash flows, and related notes) are the main type of reports provided by financial accounting.

Financial accounting also provides important information which assists the entity’s management in directing available economic resources. Accordingly, it facilitates management efforts in planning, directing and supervising the entity’s activities. It also facilitates the roles of governmental agencies responsible for supervising the national economy and for collecting tax based on the financial information which it produces.

3/4     Limitations of information provided by financial accounting

Financial accounting does not provide all the information required by those who need to make decisions about the entity. This is so because of many reasons, including those related to the nature of the financial accounting processes, and those related to cost and benefit considerations. The following are some aspects of the limitations of information produced by financial accounting and the reasons for such limitations.

3/5     Limitations resulting from the nature of the financial accounting processes

(a)      Financial accounting is concerned mainly with measuring the financial effect of transactions and other events on the entity’s financial position, results of operations and cash flows. Accordingly, financial accounting is not usually able to produce information to assist in the evaluation of the entity’s ability to achieve objectives that are not capable of financial measurement in an objective manner.

(b)     Financial accounting does not differentiate, through its processes, between the entity’s performance and that of its management. Although, management ability is one of the important factors that affect the entity’s performance, there are other factors beyond management control which affect the entity’s performance such as natural disasters and external political and economic changes. Accordingly, it is not currently possible for financial accounting to provide information which can assist in evaluating management performance aside from the entity’s performance.

(c)     The information currently provided by financial accounting is historical in nature which may or may not be indicative of the future. Yet, decisions made by those who need this information are concerned with the future impact of alternative courses of action.

(d)           Financial accounting relies to a very great extent on estimates when measuring the financial effect of transactions and other events on the entity’s financial position and the results of operations; for example, depreciation of fixed assets, doubtful receivables, etc. Such estimates are based on assumptions determined by management which may or may not turn out to be accurate.

3/6     Limitations resulting from cost and benefit consideration

         The information which financial accounting produces has costs associated with its preparation, presentation and usage. Accordingly, cost considerations affect the information produced by financial accounting. One of the results of cost considerations is the emphasis in financial accounting on the production of general purpose financial reports to serve the common information needs of multiple external users.

4. The importance of establishing objectives of financial accounting for Islamic banks and financial institutions

4/1     The importance of establishing objectives

         Human experience proved that any work which does not have clear objectives encounters limitations, conflicts and blurred vision in its implementation. Financial accounting and financial reporting are no exception to this precept. Accounting scholars and practitioners alike have found that the process of developing financial accounting standards without establishing objectives leads to inconsistent standards which may not be suitable for the environment in which they are expected to be applied.

         Agreement on the objectives of financial accounting for Islamic banks would achieve many benefits:

(a)      The objectives will be used as a guide by the Financial Accounting Standards Board for Islamic Banks and Financial Institutions when developing financial accounting standards. This should assure consistency in developing standards.

(b)     The objectives will assist Islamic banks, in the absence of accepted accounting standards, in making choices among alternative accounting treatments.

(c)     The objectives will be available as a guide and a regulator of subjective judgment made by management when preparing the financial statements and other financial reports.

(d)     The objectives, when properly defined, should increase users’ confidence and understanding of accounting information and, in turn, their confidence in Islamic banks.

(e)     Establishing objectives should lead to the development of accounting standards which are likely to be consistent with each other. This should increase users’ confidence in the financial reports of Islamic banks.

4/2     Differences between the objectives of financial accounting and financial reports for Islamic banks and objectives of financial accounting for other banks

         Financial accounting is mainly concerned with providing information to assist users in making decisions. Those who deal with Islamic banks are concerned, in the first place, with obeying and satisfying Allah in their financial and other dealings. Allah says “O ye people! eat of what is on earth. Lawful and good; and do not follow the footsteps of the Evil One, for he is to you an avowed enemy”. (Chapter 2: verse 168). The objectives of financial accounting for other banks have, for the most part, been established in non-Islamic countries. It is natural, therefore, that there should be differences between objectives established for other banks and those to be established for Islamic banks. Those differences stem mainly from differences in the objectives of those who need accounting information and, therefore, in the information they need. This does not mean, however, that we should reject all the results of contemporary accounting thought in non-Islamic countries. This is so because there are common objectives between Muslim and non-Muslim users of accounting information. For example, Muslim and non-Muslim investors share in their desire to increase their wealth and to realize acceptable returns on their investments. This is a legitimate desire which has been recognized in Shari’a consistent with Allah’s saying “It is He Who has made the earth manageable for you, so traverse ye through its tracts and enjoy of the sustenance which He furnishes” (excerpt from chapter 67:verse 15).

 

         In addition to the above, there are other reasons why different objectives of financial accounting should be established for Islamic banks. Those are:

(a)      Islamic banks must comply with the principles and rules of Shari’a in all their financial and other dealings.

(b)     The functions of Islamic banks are significantly different from those of traditional banks who have adopted the Western model of banking.

(c)           The relationship between Islamic banks and the parties that deal with them differs from the relationship of those who deal with traditional banks. Unlike traditional banks, Islamic banks do not use interest in their investment and financing transactions, whereas traditional banks borrow and lend money on the basis of interest. Islamic banks mobilize funds through investment accounts on the basis of Mudaraba (i.e. sharing of profit between the investor who provides the funds and the bank which provides the effort) and invest these funds on the basis of Mudaraba, profit and loss sharing mechanisms, or deferred payments methods consistent with the Shari’a.

         Hence, accounting standards developed for traditional banks may not be relevant to Islamic banks. Nevertheless, in developing accounting standards for Islamic banks, the Board may be guided by clear objectives and concepts which are appropriate for other banks provided they are in compliance with the Shari’a precepts.

5.   The approach to establishing objectives of financial accounting for Islamic banks and financial institutions

Two approaches to establishing objectives have emerged through the discussion which took place at different meetings of the committees established by the Board. These are:

(a)     Establish objectives based on the principles of Islam and its teachings and then consider these established objectives in relation to contemporary accounting thought.

(b)    Start with objectives established in contemporary accounting thought, test them against Islamic Shari’a, accept those that are consistent with Shari’a and reject those that are not.

In order to test each approach and select an appropriate one, a Shari’a scholar was requested to prepare a working paper on the objectives of financial accounting for Islamic banks consistent with the first approach, and an accounting scholar was requested to prepare a separate working paper consistent with the second approach. In addition, a joint working paper was prepared by a Shari’a expert and an accounting expert. Several joint meetings were held to present and discuss those working papers. It was agreed that one of the Shari’a scholars, who attended the meetings, prepare a paper summarizing the results of those discussions and the views presented in the working papers. This last paper was presented and discussed at a meeting of the Committee attended by several Shari’a and accounting scholars. Based on the results of those efforts, it was agreed that the second approach, described above, should be adopted to establish objectives of financial accounting for Islamic banks and financial institutions.

5/1     The major users of financial reports

         Financial reports include not only financial statements but also other means of communicating information that relates, directly or indirectly, to the information provided by financial accounting.

         The objectives of financial accounting determine the type and nature of information which should be included in financial reports, in order to assist users of these reports in making decisions. Therefore, the objectives of financial accounting should focus on the common information needs of users of financial reports. In addition, the objectives should focus on the common information needs of those users who do not have the authority or ability to directly obtain the information they need, or access to such information. This focus stems from two reasons, namely the ability of other users to directly obtain from the entity the information they need to make decisions; and the need for accountants to make a choice among a variety of contending information needs of different users because of the limited nature of what could be included in financial reports. This does not mean, however, that financial reports which are focused on the common information needs of users with limited access to information will not be useful for others.

 

         The main categories of users of external financial reports for Islamic banks whose information needs are addressed in this statement include:

a)    Equity holders.

b)   Holders of investment accounts.

c)   Other depositors.

d)   Current and saving account holders.

e)   Others who transact business with the Islamic bank, who are not equity or account holders.

f)    Zakah agencies (in case there is no legal obligation for its payment).

g)    Regulatory agencies.

5/2     Common information needs of users of financial reports who do not have the authority or ability to obtain additional information from the Islamic bank

         The information needs of users of financial reports increase and vary with the increase in the categories of users for example investors including equity and investment account holders, creditors including current depositors, savings depositors, debtors, employees of the Islamic bank, other financial and banking institutions, and those who deal with the Islamic banks in any other manner.

         Government agencies have the power and authority to directly obtain the types of information that best serve their needs. On the other hand, other external users are limited to the information contained in the Islamic bank’s financial reports. Accordingly, it is essential that the common information needs of these categories of users be the focus of financial reports. It should be emphasized, however, that financial reports, because of cost considerations, cannot be expected to provide for every possible information need of these categories of users, particularly those needs that are not common to all users.

 

         It is possible to summarize the common information needs of users as follows:

(a)      Information which can assist in evaluating the bank’s compliance with the principles of Shari’a in all of its financial and other dealings.

(b)     Information which can assist in evaluating the bank’s ability in:

1.    Using the economic resources available to it in a manner that safeguards these resources while increasing their value, at reasonable rates.

2.    Carrying out its social responsibilities and in particular those that have been specified by Islam, including the good use of available resources, the protection of the rights of others and the prevention of corruption on earth.

3.    Providing for the economic needs of those who deal with the bank.

4.    Maintaining liquidity at appropriate levels.

(c)     Information which can assist those employed by the bank in evaluating their relationship and future with the Islamic bank, including the bank’s ability to safeguard and develop their rights and develop their managerial and productive skills and capabilities.

(d)     It is assumed that the types of information described above represent the minimum required to satisfy the common information needs of external users of financial reports.

5/3     Other financial reports

         Financial reports which are intended to provide for the common information needs of external users have been divided into the following categories:

(a)      Those that are currently produced by financial accounting in the form of financial statements and related notes.

(b)           Those that could be produced by financial accounting or other information systems of Islamic banks in the form of other financial reports, which are not currently being produced.

 

         The distinction between these two categories of reports is essential at this stage of the Board’s efforts for the following reasons:

1.       The first category of reports, i.e. the financial statements and related notes, is the main output of financial accounting. In addition, they are generally known and are prepared in accordance with standards that provide reasonable assurance of fairness in the presentation of the financial position, results of operations and cash flows.

2.       The second category of reports lacks a generally accepted definition and there is no assurance that they would contain reliable and fair presentations of information required by those who deal with Islamic banks for a variety of reasons, including the limitations of the financial accounting processes.

         Notwithstanding the above, objectives will be established for all financial reports as a group to guide the development of accounting standards for Islamic banks. The future plans of the Board will address the specific objective(s) of each report and its concept and develop the standards for its preparation to assure its accuracy.

         Examples of these types of other financial reports for Islamic banks include:

(a)      Analytical financial reports about sources of funds for Zakah and their uses.

         Although the financial statements of Islamic banks will disclose the liability for Zakah and the amount that has been disbursed, users of financial statements might be interested in additional analysis of sources of funds for Zakah, methods of its collection including controls to safeguard these funds and their uses.

(b)     Analytical financial reports about earnings or expenditures prohibited by the Shari’a

         It is our intent for the financial statements to disclose income earned by the Islamic bank from prohibited transactions or sources and expenditures prohibited by the Shari’a and how those earnings were disposed of. However, users of the financial statements may be interested in detailed financial reports. Such reports may include information about the causes of such earnings, their sources, how they were disposed of and procedures established to prevent entering into transactions prohibited by the Shari’a.

(c)     Reports concerning the Islamic bank’s fulfillment of its social responsibilities

         Islam has always been concerned with the concept of social responsibility whether that responsibility be for the welfare of society or the prevention of harm. Indeed, this can be clearly observed in the Quranic verses, the sayings and deed of the Prophet (may the blessing and peace of Allah be upon him), and Islamic jurisprudence. For example, Allah said “But seek with the (wealth) which Allah has bestowed on thee, the Home of the Hereafter, nor forget thy portion in this world: but do thou good, as Allah has been good to thee and seek not (occasions for) mischief in the land; for Allah loves not those who do mischief”. (Chapter 28: verse 77). The Prophet (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said “The most loved by Allah among the people are those helpful to others”. The Prophet also said “There should be neither harming nor reciprocating harm”. Hence, Islam prohibits the Muslim from causing harm to himself, to others, his environment or society in the pursuit of material returns. This shows that Islam spearheaded this concept which did not develop in the West except recently.

(d)     Reports about the development of the Islamic bank’s human resources

         Those reports may contain information about and the bank’s efforts to develop its human resources whether with respect to their knowledge of Shari’a or economics. In addition it would include the bank’s efforts in encouraging its employees to be effective and efficient.

6.   Objectives of financial accounting and financial reports for Islamic banks and financial institutions

6/1    Objectives of financial accounting

(a)     To determine the rights and obligations of all interested parties, including those rights and obligations resulting from incomplete transactions and other events, in accordance with the principles of Islamic Shari’a and its concepts of fairness, charity and compliance with Islamic business values.

(b)    To contribute to the safeguarding of the Islamic bank’s assets, its rights and the rights of others in an adequate manner.

(c)    To contribute to the enhancement of the managerial and productive capabilities of the Islamic bank and encourage compliance with its established goals and policies and, above all, compliance with Islamic Shari’a in all transactions and events.

(d)    To provide, through financial reports, useful information to users of these reports, to enable them to make legitimate decisions in their dealings with Islamic banks.

6/2     Objectives of financial reports

Financial reports, which are directed mainly to external users, should provide the following types of information:

(a)     Information about the Islamic bank’s compliance with the Islamic Shari’a and its objectives and to establish such compliance; and Information establishing the separation of prohibited earnings and expenditures, if any, which occurred, and of the manner in which these were disposed of.

(b)    Information about the Islamic bank’s economic resources and related obligations (the obligations of the Islamic bank to transfer economic resources to satisfy the rights of its owners or the rights of others), and the effect of transactions, other events and circumstances on the entity’s economic resources and related obligations. This information should be directed principally at assisting the user evaluating the adequacy of the Islamic bank’s capital to absorb losses and business risks; assessing the risk inherent in its investments and; evaluating the degree of liquidity of its assets and the liquidity requirements for meeting its other obligations.

(c)    Information to assist the concerned party in the determination of Zakah on the Islamic bank’s funds and the purpose for which it will be disbursed.

(d)    Information to assist in estimating cash flows that might be realized from dealing with the Islamic bank, the timing of those flows and the risk associated with their realization. This information should be directed principally at assisting the user in evaluating the Islamic bank’s ability to generate income and to convert it into cash flows and the adequacy of those cash flows for distributing profits to equity and investment account holders.

(e)    Information to assist in evaluating the Islamic bank’s discharge of its fiduciary responsibility to safeguard funds and to invest them at reasonable rates of return, and information about investment rates of returns on the bank’s investments and the rate of return accruing to equity and investment account holders.

(f)     Information about the Islamic bank’s discharge of its social responsibilities.

*   *   *

Objective of an Audit

2.      The objective of an audit of financial statements is to enable the auditor to express an opinion as to whether the financial statements are prepared, in all material respects, in accordance with the Shari’a Rules and Principles, the accounting standards of the Accounting and Auditing Organization for Islamic Financial Institutions (AAOIFI) and relevant national accounting standards and practices in the country in which the financial institution operates. The phrase used to express the auditor’s opinion is “give a true and fair view”.

3.      Although the auditor’s opinion enhances the credibility of the financial statements, the user cannot assume that the opinion is an assurance as to the future viability of the financial institution or as to the efficiency or effectiveness with which management has conducted the affairs of the financial institution.

General Principles of an Audit

4.      The auditor should comply with the “Code of Ethics for Professional Accountants” issued by the AAOIFI, and the International Federation of Accountants which do not contravene Islamic Rules and Principles. Ethical principles governing the auditor’s professional responsibilities include:

(a)     righteousness

(b)    integrity

(c)    trustworthiness

(d)    fairness

(e)    honesty

(f)     independence

(g)     objectivity

(h)    professional competence

(i)     due care

(j)     confidentiality

(k)     professional behaviour

(l)     technical standards

5.      The auditor should conduct an audit in accordance with ASIFIs, which are auditing standards approved by the Accounting and Auditing Organization for Islamic Financial Institutions. These contain basic principles and essential procedures together with related guidance in the form of explanatory and other material.

6.      The auditor should plan and perform the audit with professional competence and due care recognizing that circumstances may exist which cause the financial statements to be materially misstated. For example, the auditor would usually expect to find evidence to support management representations and not automatically assume that they are necessarily correct.

Scope of an Audit

7.      The term “scope of an audit” refers to the audit procedures deemed necessary by the auditor in the circumstances to achieve the objective of the audit. The procedures required to conduct an audit in accordance with ASIFIs should be determined by the auditor having regard to the requirements of appropriate Islamic Rules and Principles, ASIFIs, relevant professional bodies, legislation, regulations which do not contravene Islamic Rules and Principles, and, where appropriate, the terms of the audit engagement and reporting requirements. International Standards on Auditing (ISAs) shall apply in respect of matters not covered in detail by ASIFIs providing these do not contravene Islamic Rules and Principles.

Reasonable Assurance

8.      An audit is designed to provide reasonable assurance that the financial statements taken as a whole are free from material misstatement. Reasonable assurance is a concept relating to the accumulation of the audit evidence necessary for the auditor to conclude that there are no material misstatements in the financial statements taken as a whole. Reasonable assurance relates to the whole audit process.

9.      Reasonable assurance also means that the auditor has satisfied himself that the transactions he examined during his audit comply with Islamic Shari’a Rules and Principles as determined by the Shari’a Board of the financial institution.

10.    However, there are inherent limitations in an audit that affect the auditor’s ability to detect material misstatements. These limitations result from factors such as:

(a)   the use of sampling while testing transactions and balances

(b)  the inherent limitations of any accounting and internal control system         (including, for example, the possibility of collusion)

(c)  the fact that most audit evidence is persuasive rather than conclusive

11.    Also the work undertaken by the auditor to form an opinion is based on judgement, regarding in particular:

(a)     the gathering of audit evidence, for example, in deciding the nature, timing and extent of audit procedures, and

(b)    the drawing of conclusions based on the audit evidence gathered, for example, assessing the reasonableness of the estimates made by management in preparing the financial statements

12.    Further, other limitations may affect the persuasiveness of audit evidence available from which to draw conclusions on aspects of the financial statements (for example, transactions between related parties). In these cases certain ASIFIs identify specified procedures which may, because of the nature of these aspects, provide sufficient appropriate audit evidence in the absence of:

(a)     unusual circumstances which increase the risk of material misstatement beyond that which would ordinarily be expected, or

(b)    any indication that material misstatement exists

Responsibility for the Financial Statements

13.    While the auditor is responsible for forming and expressing an opinion on the financial statements, the responsibility for preparing and presenting the financial statements in compliance with Islamic Shari’a Rules and Principles and relevant legislation and regulations is that of the management of the financial institution. (Consideration should be given to the definition of management in relevant national legislation and regulations.) The audit of the financial statements does not relieve the management of the financial institution of this responsibility.

Source: AAOFI (Accounting and Auditong Organization for Islamic Financial Institutions)

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