Framing Audit Failure : Four studies on audit quality discomforts

University dissertation from Stockholm : Företagsekonomiska institutionen

Abstract: The aim of this thesis is to analyze the practice of auditing in terms of how relevant actors frame audit failure. This aim is explored in four different articles. The first article examines and develops the idea of auditing as a comfort-producing activity. Twenty audit seniors are interviewed on their experience of discomforts in the audit process. One conclusion is that the state of comfort that is demanded to become comfortable with an audit changes in relation to which actors get involved in the comfort production. In the second article the demands on a sufficient audit are analyzed by studying how Revisorsnämnden (the Swedish supervisory board of public accountants) frame a sufficient audit? This analysis is undertaken by an examination of disciplinary case rulings (covering the time period 1995-2003). It is concluded that professional aspects are more important than process aspects in the production of a sufficient audit. The third study also examines disciplinary cases (covering 2002-2006). In this study the aim is to analyze the discomforts given voice to by the audit consumers and to performatively establish who these users are. The fourth article probes a specific case of possible failure. Two propositions are probed: the audit as an unsuccessful audit and the audit as an audit failure. It is concluded that in the face of controversy, the auditor may lose their role as spokesperson for the successful audit but that if no other actor manages to make themselves the spokespersons for audit failure, the failure to produce a successful audit does not make it an audit failure.These studies facilitates an understanding of the framing of audit failure in terms of the ‘inside’ and the ‘outside’ where the main concern of the actors on the inside is what to include in the framing and the main concern for the actors on the outside what to exclude. To exclude (i.e. to frame what auditing is not) is a paramount endeavour for actors involved in the practice of auditing.

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