Unprofessionalism in the audit profession
Abstract: Background and problem: The audit profession have developed through the history as the auditor’s associations has becoming rule-making bodies. Auditors has become an even more important function, which leads to greater responsibility and more obligations. Auditors are seen as a profession, and in exchange for them to perform their work they need to be seen to act in the public interest, being independent, act with integrity, having knowledge and competence and being dedicated to their work. It has also been seen in previous research that the professional appearance and behavior matters in the audit profession. Due to the scandals in the audit profession over time, the need for supervisory boards has increased. It is the Swedish Inspectorate of Auditors (SIA) that perform the supervision of the auditors in Sweden and ensure that existing rules and standards are being followed. In previous research of disciplinary cases issued by the SIA, it is seen that professional wrongdoings made by auditors was of importance. However, no previous research has investigated what types of professional wrongdoings auditors commits. Aim: The aim of this study is to explore what manifests unprofessionalism in the audit profession. Disciplinary cases concerning professional wrongdoings will be analyzed in order to understand how the Swedish audit profession’s supervisory body, the SIA, assesses cases that relates to unprofessional behavior. Methodology: Disciplinary cases concerning professional wrongdoings between 2006-2019 has been analyzed through a qualitative content analysis. The disciplinary cases have been sorted into categories concerning professional aspects that have emerged from previous research and auditor’s code of conduct. The result has been analyzed and compared to previous research and the frame of reference. Result and conclusions: The types of professional wrongdoings the auditors commit are Lack of independence, Shortcomings in the auditor’s own business, Lack of dedication, Not fulfilled requirements, Personal shortcomings, Not act in public interest and Lack of integrity. The types of professional wrongdoings occurred most frequently was Lack of independence, Shortcomings the auditor’s own business and Lack of dedication. Lack of independence had the highest share of the total disciplinary cases issued, while Shortcomings in the auditor’s own business seem to be the most severe one as it had the largest share of withdrawal of the auditor’s authorization or approval. Future studies: As this study only take the perspective of the SIA, it would be further interesting to see how the auditor’s perceive professionalism and what aspects they find important in order to obtain a professional role. Hence, conducting a study from the perspective of the professionals would give a more nuanced picture of what it means being a professional. In addition, it would also be interesting to investigate how the audited client’s perceive professionalism in the audit, and what aspects of professionalism they find important in order to obtain trust for the auditor.
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