PricewaterhouseCoopers were appointed as auditors of the company on 8 February 1999, subsequently becoming PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP (PwC) in 2003.
The company has in place a formal policy on auditor independence and non-audit services, with which the external auditors are required to comply, to ensure that the independence of the auditors is not impaired by the nature of non-audit work. The policy stipulates work which is permitted or not permitted to be performed by the auditors, and provides for appropriate approval and oversight processes.
As a further safeguard, PwC conﬁrm annually in a formal report to the audit committee that processes to ensure compliance with this policy are in place and that these processes are monitored regularly. This report includes a statement that, in their opinion, PwC believe that the nature of their non-audit services has not impaired their independence as auditors. Note 3 to the consolidated ﬁnancial statements has a breakdown of non-audit services provided to the group by the auditors for the year under review and fees paid to other audit ﬁrms.
The committee has a formal and well established system for the review of the effectiveness of the external auditors. This process involves the external auditors presenting to the committee their proposed audit strategy followed by the output of their discussions with management. At the audit committee meeting in May, the external auditors present the output of their detailed year-end work. In making its assessment of external auditor effectiveness, the committee reviews the audit engagement letters before signature by management, reviews the external auditors’ summary of group and subsidiary issues and management’s response to the summary, and conducts an overall review of the effectiveness of the external audit process and the external auditors. Following the review, the committee makes a recommendation to the board on the reappointment of the external auditors by the shareholders.
The committee has not adopted a policy on tendering frequency since it prefers to conduct an annual assessment of the auditors’ effectiveness. The audit committee has reviewed the proposed key audit partner rotations during the year.There are no contractual obligations restricting the company’s choice of external auditor.