Does combined assurance contribute to higher quality integrated reports by South African listed companies?
Purpose: The purpose of this thesis is to evaluate whether or not combined assurance contributes to higher quality integrated reports by South African listed companies. It addresses the lack of previous research into the role assurance, especially combined assurance, plays as a credible enhancing mechanism for better report quality. This research was conducted using a quality schematic which deals with different assurances of integrated and sustainability reports. Design/methodology/approach: Content analysis was conducted on 30 companies out of the top 100 companies listed on the JSE in which data was collected and aggregated from annual/integrated reports which were dealing with assurance. The data was then analysed using a regression model and different test statistic performed to determine any association between combined assurance and integrated reporting. Findings: The statistical evidence from the research supports the use of combined assurance by an entity as it is associated with higher quality reporting. The different various aspects of combined assurance that led to the association included the types of procedures performed by assurance providers, as well as the source of assurance whether external or internal. The level of assurance and the responsibility and compliance statements both negatively affect the quality of integrated reports and thus serves to indicate that too much emphasis should not be placed on these aspects. Research limitations/implications: There are several limitations of this research which include the use of content analysis and, specifically, manual coding. This results in subjectivity and the possibility of errors. The data collected was also restricted to a single jurisdiction which limited the findings only to a South African context. Originality/value: Integrated reporting has been adopted far greater than in earlier years and it is important that companies perform the report in a concise effect manner. This study provides insights on the role a combined assurance can play in ensuring and improving the quality of integrated reports produced. It is imperative that further guidance is provided on making an integrated or a sustainability report the subject matter of a combined assurance to ensure entities obtain the benefit of better report quality
A research report submitted by in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Commerce, University of the Witwatersrand, 2021