Auditor and client commitment to audit preparation in a quality audit process

Marsh, Stuart (2018) Auditor and client commitment to audit preparation in a quality audit process. Doctoral thesis, University of Central Lancashire.

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Reflecting on the growing interest from scholars and practitioners and their awareness of the necessity to appreciate the involvement of the client in an audit process (Canning, Malsch & O’Dwyer, 2017), the aim of this study is to explore the importance of audit client commitment to comprehensive audit preparation, to improve the quality of a UK financial statements audit. This research is based on a qualitative approach employing semi structured interviews as a research method. Accordingly, interviews were undertaken with audit engagement leaders from a range of auditing firms as well as with finance directors from a range of audited clients. The perspectives as to the levels of preparedness for the first day of the financial statements audit commencing from each participant group were examined and were shown to reveal interesting results.

The study unveiled the differences between what auditors and their clients perceived to be ‘ready’ for the financial statements audit. The availability of a completed set of financial statements when the auditors commence their audit has been identified as an issue that causes a significant amount of time pressures on the auditors. Additionally, the thematic analysis of data revealed that as a result of such pressures auditors were adopting practices whereby insufficient/substandard work was completed, which could potentially not only have an adverse effect on the overall quality of the audit, but also contribute to an inappropriate audit opinion being signed. Amendments to current auditing practices and the periods between a reporting period end and the audit work commencing to enhance audit quality was found to underpin the pressures on auditors when forming a time pressured audit opinion. This study of the challenges faced by auditors to plan and complete their audit with conflicting targets and time scales as well as the pressures felt by audit clients, provides audit preparedness specific, evidence based implications on which these may be surmounted to enable a quality, fully documented audit and supported audit opinion to be completed.
This study addresses the pressing need to overcome the lack of theoretical discussions on the auditees’ perspectives on auditing practices, and their views on the specific factors enhancing audit quality. Based on the existing literature to date, no study has explored the “auditee” as a research object in scholarly discussions on the quality of a UK financial statements audit.
The findings of this study, along with subsequent recommendations have relevance for the key stakeholders of audit engagements and regulators concerned with the enhancement of the quality of a UK financial statements audit, and for scholars interested in broadening their understanding of the audit process as a two-sided relationship.

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