Characteristics of the accounting-related internal control and risk management system and explanatory report of the Management Board
METRO GROUP’s accounting-related internal control and risk management system employs coordinated instruments and measures for the prevention, early detection, assessment and management of risks. The Corporate Accounting department of METRO AG is responsible for the group-wide implementation of these instruments and measures.
Overarching responsibility for all processes related to the preparation of the consolidated and individual financial statements as well as the combined management report of METRO AG rests with the Board department of the Chief Financial Officer of METRO AG, Mr Mark Frese. The actual preparation of the financial statements as well as the combined management report in the legal sense, however, is the responsibility of the Management Board of METRO AG. Following the preparation of the financial statements, the consolidated and individual financial statements as well as the combined management report are audited and approved by the auditor. They are then discussed and reviewed by the Supervisory Board of METRO AG. The auditor attends this Supervisory Board meeting, reports the key findings of his audit and answers additional questions. Barring any objections on the part of the Supervisory Board, the annual financial statements and the combined management report are approved by the Supervisory Board. The annual financial statements of METRO AG are released once this approval is given.
Building on the “Internal Control – Integrated Framework” concept of the Committee of Sponsoring Organizations of the Treadway Commission (COSO), the Corporate Accounting department of METRO AG has defined group-wide minimum requirements regarding the design of the accounting-related internal control system of METRO AG, the sales lines and the major service companies. With these requirements, the company particularly wants to ensure adherence to the relevant accounting standards and the respective internal guidelines (for example the IFRS accounting guideline).
Among others, these requirements cover the design and implementation of controls, monitoring the effectiveness of controls and reporting about effectiveness analyses.
- Design of controls: Taking a top-down approach, the company has identified the risk of material errors with regard to financial reporting for eleven financial and accounting processes. In addition, the Corporate Accounting department has stipulated binding group-wide control objectives which the key group companies must meet through company-specific control activities.
- Implementation of controls: The group companies must keep records of the implementation of these controls. These provide the basis for an independent review of the effectiveness of controls by the Group Internal Audit department and the group’s auditor.
- Effectiveness of controls: The major group companies are obliged to evaluate the effectiveness of controls at the end of each financial year (self-evaluation). In the process, they must apply the uniform, group-wide method stipulated by the Corporate Accounting department. In addition, the effectiveness of controls is reviewed as part of the risk-oriented, independent audits conducted by the Group Internal Audit department.
- Reporting: The results of the self-evaluations must be reported to the Corporate Accounting department using a standardised reporting format. The group companies must confirm that their self-evaluations were conducted using the stipulated method. Aside from the control activities, the group companies must also report on the other four components of the COSO framework: control environment, risk assessment, information and communication as well as monitoring. Companies’ individual reports are validated by the Corporate Accounting department and compiled in an overall report on METRO GROUP’s accounting-related internal control system. This is reported to the Governance, Risk and Compliance Committee (GRCC) as well as the Management Board of METRO AG.
The key requirements (for example, the IFRS accounting guideline), accounting processes, individual controls and independent review by the Group Internal Audit department and the auditor are described in detail below.
IFRS accounting guideline
The interim consolidated financial statements and the consolidated financial statements of METRO AG are prepared in accordance with the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) as approved by the European Commission. A group-wide IFRS accounting guideline that is compulsory for all companies included in the consolidated financial statements ensures the uniform group-wide application of accounting procedures in accordance with IFRS. The guideline explains IFRS regulations to group companies and makes stipulations regarding accounting measurements. To monitor compliance with the IFRS accounting guideline, the management of each group company is obliged to confirm compliance by means of a letter of representation. The IFRS accounting guideline covers all IFRS relevant to METRO AG and does not relate only to certain accounting events. The Corporate Accounting department of METRO AG is responsible for ensuring compliance with this guideline. Amendments to IFRS are continually included in the IFRS accounting guideline and communicated to all companies included in the consolidated financial statements.
Accounting processes of companies included in the consolidated financial statements
The preparation of the individual financial statements of consolidated companies according to IFRS for consolidation purposes is principally carried out in SAP-based accounting systems (SAP FI). The organisational separation of central and subledger accounting, for example, asset accounting, provides for clear assignments among individual tasks related to the preparation of the financial statements. It also provides for a functional separation that ensures control processes such as the two-signature principle. These systems are used to prepare the individual financial statements of a large share of group companies based on a centrally managed table of accounts using uniform accounting rules.
The consolidation of financial data in the context of group reporting is carried out by means of a centralised, SAP-based consolidation system (SAP EC-CS). All consolidated METRO GROUP companies are integrated into this system without exception. This system provides for a uniform accounts table used by all consolidated companies in accordance with the IFRS accounting guideline. The accounts tables for the individual IFRS financial statements and the consolidated financial statements are interlinked.
Aside from failure to comply with accounting rules, risks can also arise from failure to observe formal deadlines. An online planning tool was introduced to help avoid these risks and document the obligatory processes required in the context of the preparation of individual and consolidated financial statements under IFRS, their sequence and the responsible persons. This tool is used to monitor content and timing of the processes related to the preparation of the individual and consolidated financial statements under IFRS. It provides for the necessary tracking and tracing systems to ensure that risks of overarching group units can be detected and eliminated early on.
The planning tool divides the process of preparing the individual financial statements into key milestones, which in turn are divided into individual activities. In terms of content, these milestones and activities are geared towards METRO GROUP’s IFRS accounting guideline and thus reflect its implementation. Compliance with additional deadlines and milestones that are centrally provided by the planning tool for the purpose of structuring and coordinating the preparation of the consolidated financial statements is monitored by METRO AG’s Corporate Accounting department. The scheduling and monitoring of the milestones and activities required to achieve these group milestones as part of the preparation of individual financial statements are part of the responsibilities of the respective company’s management.
Once they have been transmitted from the individual financial statements under IFRS to the SAP-based consolidation system, the financial data are subjected to an automated plausibility review in relation to accounting-specific contexts and dependencies. Any errors or warning messages generated by the system during this validation process must be addressed by the person responsible for the individual financial statements before the data are transmitted to the consolidation facility.
The report in which all essential group companies provide a comparison of key items of the balance sheet and the income statement with prior-period figures as well as relevant comments represents another monitoring instrument. Every essential group company must provide this report to METRO AG in the context of the preparation of individual financial statements.
Access regulations for accounting-related EDP systems (SAP FI) provide for IT security. Each company included in the consolidated financial statements is subject to the regulations concerning IT security. These regulations are summarised in an IT security guideline, with group-wide compliance being monitored by the Group Internal Audit department of METRO AG. This ensures that users only have access to the information and systems needed to fulfil their specific task.
Accounting processes in the context of consolidation
The planning tool also divides the process of preparing the consolidated financial statements into key milestones, activities and deadlines. In the process, the completion of typical consolidation measures – including sales elimination as well as expense, income, liability and capital consolidation – represents specific milestones in the preparation of the consolidated financial statements. Personnel responsibilities for the consolidation measures mentioned above are documented in consideration of stand-in arrangements.
The group also relies on external service providers to handle support activities related to the preparation of the consolidated financial statements. These services essentially relate to valuations of real estate, pension obligations and share-based payments.
The consolidation measures required to prepare the consolidated financial statements are subject to various systematic and manual controls. The automated plausibility reviews (validations) used in individual financial statements data also apply to the consolidation measures. Additional monitoring mechanisms at group level include target-performance comparisons as well as analyses dealing with the composition and changes of individual items in the balance sheet and the income statement. Compliance with internal controls covering the preparation and accounting process in the context of the compilation of the consolidated financial statements is regularly monitored by the Group Internal Audit department of METRO AG.
Access regulations for the consolidation system SAP EC-CS are implemented to ensure adherence to IT security regulations (writing and reading authorisations). Authorisations to use the consolidation system are managed centrally by METRO AG. The approval is given only from the Corporate Accounting and Corporate Planning & Controlling departments. This ensures that users only have access to data they require to fulfil their specific tasks.
Group Internal Audit
The Group Internal Audit department of METRO AG provides independent and objective audit and consulting services within METRO GROUP and supports the Management Board of METRO AG and the management of the group companies in reaching their goals through a potential-oriented assessment of key management and business processes. In coordination with the Management Board and the group companies, the Group Internal Audit department develops a risk-oriented annual audit and project plan.
Based on the described principles, the Group Internal Audit department carries out independent audits of the controls governing the process of preparing the consolidated financial statements, the implementation of the IFRS accounting guideline and group accounting processes within METRO GROUP. In the process, focal topics are defined as part of risk-oriented planning for the annual audit.
The IFRS accounting guideline is reviewed by the auditor of the consolidated financial statements and made available to the auditors of the companies included in the consolidated financial statements. These, in turn, confirm the consistent application of the IFRS accounting guideline by the companies included in the consolidated financial statements.
In addition, the individual IFRS financial statements prepared by the group companies for consolidation purposes as well as the consolidated financial statements and combined management report of METRO AG are reviewed and monitored for compliance with applicable accounting standards as well as with additional rules and regulations by the respective auditors.
The interim consolidated financial statements for the six-month period undergo an auditor’s review and the full-year consolidated statements are audited. The final auditor’s opinion on the consolidated financial statements is published as an audit certificate in the annual report.