Critical Auditing Studies and “The Bigger Picture”

For many years, accounting researchers have studied the culture, the technology, and the regulation of audit firms. We’ve observed and explained the complex factors that have shaped the profession.

But while studying these details, is it possible that we have missed the bigger picture? Should we be critically appraising the audit function instead of simply understanding it? In order to assess its future relevance to our society, and to its role within it?

The Elsevier journal Critical Perspectives on Accounting is addressing these questions by publishing a special issue entitled “Critical Auditing Studies: Adopting a Critical Lens toward Contemporary Audit Discourse, Practice and Regulation.” The editors are Anna Samsonova-Taddei of the Alliance Manchester Business School of the University of Manchester and Yves Gendron of the Faculté des sciences de l’administration of Université Laval.

The editors are calling for manuscript submissions that focus a critical lens on our profession, addressing such topics as: (1) the consequences of the rise of audit firms’ commercialism, (2) the ongoing changes in regulatory approaches to auditing, (3) claims about auditors’ knowledge base, (4) auditing and the public interest, (5) the shifting identities of auditors, and (6) control and surveillance within accounting firms.

What type of content is suitable for the special issue? Anna cites a recent report and notes that:

The strong impression is that now is not a time for complacency but nor is it a time for knee-jerk reaction or base political point scoring. Substantive change and developments in the competencies and capabilities of audit and auditors requires more fundamental action than are offered by ‘quick fix’ solutions, audit rebranding exercises, tinkering with professional examination syllabi or the promotion of ‘new’ audit testing/analytical techniques.

In light of such concerns, there is a call for:

 … a fundamental contemplation of the overall competence of the audit function itself and what is required for the longer-term sustainability of audit as a service of high professional standing and broader public worth.

Skills, Competencies, and the Sustainability of the Modern Audit, by Turley, Humphrey, Samsonova-Taddei, Siddiqui, Woods, Basioudis, and Richard (2016)

And according to Yves:

Critical accounting research is a complex endeavor and it may be articulated in a range of relevant ways. That being said, one of the distinguishing features of critical accounting research is a high level of reflexivity in analyzing, from a “phronetic” viewpoint, socially-important phenomena – such as the trajectories (past, present and future) that surround the financial auditing concept … this phronetic exercise implies the following questions: “Where are we going? Is this desirable? What should be done?” – which we may translate as “Where is financial auditing going? Is this desirable? What should be done?”

On the Elusive Nature of Critical (Accounting) Research, Gendron (2018)

These are the critical issues that challenge the future of the auditing profession. We are gratified that our colleagues at Critical Perspectives on Accounting are dedicating a special issue to the topic, and we encourage you to contact them with any questions about potential submissions.