I am pleased to present the report of the Audit Committee for the financial year ended 3 April 2015.
Throughout the year, the Audit Committee has continued its work of reviewing the effectiveness of Halfords' corporate governance framework with particular emphasis on the quality of financial reporting, internal control, and risk management systems. This report explains in detail how the Committee undertook its duties.
We are now entering the third full year of our in-house internal audit programme. The internal audit function and its audit universe-driven review programme have matured well and our risk management processes are embedded within the operations of the business.
Looking to the financial year beginning in April 2015, the business recognises the new requirements being introduced by the new UK Corporate Governance Code (issued September 2014). The Audit Committee has already discussed these new requirements and has a clear plan to address them.
Chairman of the Audit Committee
4 June 2015
Membership and Remit of the Audit Committee
All of the members of the Audit Committee are independent Non-Executive Directors. Having been the Deputy Chief Executive and Finance Director of House of Fraser Plc, David Adams is considered by the Board to have recent and relevant financial experience and so the requisite experience to chair the Committee. Each of the other independent Non-Executive Directors has, through their other business activities, significant experience in financial matters.
The Chairman, Executive Directors and key advisors are invited to attend meetings as appropriate in order to ensure that the Committee maintains a current and well-informed view of events within the business, and to reinforce a strong risk management culture. The Audit Committee meets according to the requirements of the Company's financial calendar. The meetings of the Audit Committee also provide the opportunity for the independent Non-Executive Directors to meet without the Executive Directors present and to raise any issues of concern with the Auditor. There have been three such meetings in the period ended 3 April 2015 and nothing of note was reported.
The Audit Committee's responsibilities include:
- making recommendations to the Board on the appointment of the external Auditor, including on effectiveness, independence, non-audit work undertaken (against a formal policy) and remuneration;
- reviewing the accounting principles, policies and practices adopted throughout the period;
- reviewing and approving external financial reporting for adoption by the Board;
- assisting the Board in achieving its obligations under the Code in areas of risk management and internal control, focusing particularly on compliance with legal requirements, accounting standards and the Listing Rules;
- ensuring that an effective system of internal financial and non-financial controls is maintained; and
- approving a formal whistleblowing policy whereby staff may, in confidence, disclose issues of concern about possible malpractice or wrongdoings by any of the Group's businesses or any of its employees without fear of reprisal, and includes arrangements to investigate and respond to any issues raised.
The Audit Committee has reviewed its Terms of Reference and its composition during the year and believes that both are approriate. Copies of the full Terms of Reference are available on the Company's website or on request from the Company Secretary.
PrincipAL activities during the year
The Audit Committee met four times during the year with the following timetable:
- Review of Year End Chief Financial Officer's Report
- Recommend the Preliminary Statement to the Board for Approval
- Recommend the Annual Report to the Board for Approval
- Review of External Auditor's Report
- Review Statement of External Auditor's Independence
- Review of Internal Audit Full Year Report
- Review of Group Register of Risks and Controls
- Approval of Internal Audit Charter
- Review of Half Year Chief Financial Officer's Report
- Recommend the Interim Statement to the Board for Approval
- Review of External Auditor's Half-Year Report
- Review of Internal Audit Progress Report
- Approval of External Auditor Non-Audit Fee Policy
- Review of Committee Terms of Reference
- Review of External Auditors Annual Strategy and Fees
- Approval of Amendments to Internal Audit and Risk Management Frameworks in Response to Sep 14 Revision of Corporate Governance Code
- Review of Impact of FRS101
- Review of Internal Audit Progress Report and Annual Strategy
- Review of Group Register of Risks and Controls
- Review of Group Whistleblowing Policy
For the financial year beginning in April 2015, the Committee plans to further augment its risk management oversight through regular management briefings explaining in detail how selected key areas of business risk are managed. These presentations will be prioritised to reflect emerging external issues, but are likely to feature topics such as cyber security and supply chain safeguarding.
Significant Issues in Relation to the Financial Statements
In order to discharge its responsibility to consider accounting integrity, the Committee carefully considers key judgements applied in the preparation of the consolidated financial statements that are set out in the financials section from Consolidated income statement onwards. The Committee's review included consideration of the following key accounting judgements:
Impairment of Goodwill associated with Autocentres
Following the acquisition of Nationwide Autocentres in 2010, the Group holds significant goodwill in the Halfords Autocentres business. There are a number of factors that could impact on the future profitability of the business (e.g. loss of key customer, change in market behaviour) and there is therefore a risk that the business may not meet the growth projections necessary to support the carrying value of the intangible asset (see note 10 of the financial statements).
The Audit Committee has received detailed reports from Halfords' finance team and external Auditor addressing this issue. Consideration has been given to ensuring that cash flow models, discount rates, sensitivity analysis and centre profitability are all reasonable. The Committee concluded that it is satisfied with the accounting treatment of impairment of goodwill.
Valuation of inventory WITHIN THE RETAIL DIVISION
With the business holding a wide range of stock, it is likely that changing consumer demands will mean that some lines cannot be sold, or will be sold at below the carrying value. Provisions are made to reflect this. Given the difficulties in forecasting market trends, there is a risk that inventory provisions made will may be inappropriate or incomplete (see note 13 of the financial statements). Management has an established methodology for assessing inventory provisions. Range reviews are regularly undertaken to ensure that all discontinued inventory is identified.
The Audit Committee has received detailed reports from Halfords' finance team and external Auditor addressing this issue. After consideration of the accuracy of the provisioning model, the completeness and accuracy of range reviews, and the reflection of these reviews within the provisions, the Committee concluded that it is satisfied with the accounting treatment of the valuation of inventory.
Effectiveness of External Audit
The effectiveness of the external audit is considered throughout the year through, amongst other factors, assessment of the degree of the audit firm's challenge of key estimates and judgements made by the business, feedback from any external or internal quality reviews on the audit and the wider quality of communication with the Committee.
In addition at its meeting in February 2015, the Committee performed a specific evaluation of the performance of the external Auditor considering the areas set out above and feedback from management. Following this, the Committee concluded that:
- the overall audit approach, materiality, threshold, and areas of audit focus were appropriate to the business; and
- the audit team possessed the necessary quality, expertise and experience to provide an independent and objective audit.
Approach to appointment or reappointment
KPMG LLP (formerly KPMG Audit plc) were appointed as external Auditor to the Group in 2009 following a formal tender process. Since that time, KPMG LLP has complied with the partner rotation requirement set out in Ethical Standards for Auditors. A partner rotation was due during the year, and accordingly KPMG's Peter Meehan has taken up the responsibilities of Senior Statutory Auditor.
The Audit Committee considers that the relationship with the Auditor is working well and is satisfied with their independence, objectivity and effectiveness and has not considered it necessary to require KPMG LLP to re-tender for external audit work. The Audit Committee has recommended to the Board, for approval by shareholders at the AGM on 30 July 2015, the reappointment of KPMG LLP as external Auditor.
Approach to safeguarding objectivity and independence if non-audit services are provided
The Audit Committee has established a policy to ensure that any non-audit services delivered by the external Auditor will not jeopardise objectivity and independence. The policy is consistent with Ethical Standards for Auditors.
The policy specifies:
'The external Auditor can be used to provide non-audit services subject to any non-audit engagement proposal provided by the external Auditor is formally approved by the Audit Committee before contractual arrangements are entered into, except for:
- Half year review; and
- Internal support services supplied by the Auditor in order to execute management's Internal Audit plan.
Other than for the above, for each separate service proposed to be provided by the Auditor, the Chief Financial Officer will prepare a note either to be tabled and minuted at an Audit Committee meeting or to be circulated via email to the Audit Committee members and the CEO giving a description of the work to be undertaken, the reasons why the Auditor is involved in the proposal and how objectivity and independence has, and is seen to be, safeguarded.
Consent is required from the Audit Committee Chairman on behalf of the Audit Committee before the Auditor can be engaged for non-audit services.
In addition, the external Auditor follows its own ethical guidelines and continually reviews its audit team to ensure that its independence is not compromised.
An analysis of the fees earned by the external Auditor is disclosed in note 2 to the financial statements.
Role and Effectiveness of Internal Audit
The Company has a dedicated in-house internal audit team, assisted by external specialists if necessary. The team principally reviews the effectiveness of the controls operating within the business by undertaking an agreed schedule of independent audits each year. The Audit Committee determines the nature and scope of the annual audit programme at the beginning of each year and revises it from time to time according to changing business circumstances and requirements. The Audit Committee also confirms that internal audit has appropriate resources available to it. The annual audit programme is derived from an audit universe including financial and commercial processes, governance issues, and key corporate risks.
Internal Audit reports on a day-to-day basis to Andrew Findlay, the Chief Financial Officer, but is independent in action and reporting of issues, with direct line of communication to the Audit Committee Chairman. The findings of the independent audits are reported initially to executive management and any necessary corrective actions are agreed. Summaries of these reports are presented to, and discussed with, the Audit Committee along with details of progress against action plans as appropriate.
A Whistleblowing Policy and procedure enables colleagues to report concerns on matters affecting the Group or their employment, without fear of recrimination. Posters publicising whistleblowing channels are distributed to all stores, autocentres, distribution centres and support centres.
The Whistleblowing Policy and procedure was reviewed and approved by the Audit Committee and was subject to an internal audit review during the year. The Company Secretary provides the Audit Committee with a regular summary of whistleblowing contacts and resolutions.
Anti-Bribery and Corruption Policy
The Group's Anti-Bribery and Corruption Policy statement reinforces that the Halfords Board is committed to conducting its business affairs so as to ensure that it does not engage in or facilitate any form of corruption. It is Halfords' policy to prohibit all forms of corruption amongst our employees, suppliers and any associated parties acting on our behalf. The Group has a detailed Anti-Bribery and Corruption Policy and maintains Gifts and Hospitality Registers. Anti-bribery expectations are set out in standard purchasing terms and conditions. Face-to-face and online training has been provided to colleagues to raise the awareness of anti-bribery and corruption legislation.
The Audit Committee has requested that anti-bribery and corruption safeguards are periodically reviewed by internal audit.
Internal Control and Risk Management
Details of the Group's internal control and risk management framework are set out in the Corporate Governance Report.