An Assesment of the Role of the Auditor in Fighting Corruption in an Organization Essay
An Assesment of the Role of the Auditor in Fighting Corruption in an Organization
Reliable accounting and financial reporting issued by auditors help organisations in allocating resources from the society in an efficient manner. Although the primary goal of an organisation is profit making and to allocate limited capital resources to the production of goods and services for which society’s demand is great, a highly complex phenomenon which is corruption poses a threat to those goals and services. However, most organisations spend huge sums of money adopting strategies to fight corruption (Whittington et al., 2004). 2.2 History of Auditing
The word “Audit” originated from the Latin word ‘auditus’ which means, ‘a hearing’. In the earlier days, whenever there was suspected corruption in a business organization, the owner of the business would appoint a person to check the accounts and require hearing the explanations given by the person responsible for keeping the accounts and funds. In those days, the audit was done to find out whether the payments and receipts were properly accounted or not accounted for (http://www.eHow.com). During the advent of the Industrial Revolution, from 1750 to 1850, auditing evolved into a field of fraud detection and financial accountability. Until then, Auditing existed primarily as a method to maintain governmental accountancy and record-keeping. The incidence of the revolution resulted in businesses expanding thereby resulting in increased job positions between owners to customers.
Resultantly, management was hired to operate businesses in the owners’ absences, and owners found an increasing need to monitor their financial activities both for accuracy and fraud prevention. (http://www.eHow.com). In the early 20th century, the reporting practice of auditors, which involved submitting reports of their duties and findings, was standardized as the “Independent Auditor’s Report.” The increase in demand for auditors led to the development of the testing process for accuracy and fraud prevention. Auditors developed a way to strategically selecting key cases as representative of the company’s performance. This was an affordable alternative to examining every case in detail, required less time and a good tool for reducing fraud (http://www.eHow.com). 2.3 Overview
“Auditing is a systematic examination of the books and records of a business or the organization in order to ascertain or verify and to report upon the facts regarding the financial operation and the result thereof” (Montgomery, 2010,p.6). Again, Loughran (2010, p.5), defines auditing as, the process of investigating information that is prepared by someone else to determine whether the information is fairly stated. On the other hand, Arens et al. (2006, p.7), defines auditing as the accumulation of evidence about information to determine and report on the degree of correspondence between the information and established criteria. “Auditing is a systematic process of objectively obtaining and evaluating evidence regarding assertions about economic actions and events to ascertain the degree of correspondence between the assertions and established criteria and communicating the results to interested users”(Robertson et al., 2002,p.7).According to Knechel (2001,p.42), “auditing is the process of providing assurance about the reliability of the information contained in the financial statements prepared in accordance with Generally Accepted Accounting Principles.” 2.4 Types of Audit
There are various ways in which the work performed by the auditor has been classified or categorized. Each classification or type of audit is unique in that, each type of audit has its own perspective, objective and business organisation. Irrespective of the type of audit being conducted, the basic processes, guidelines and standards are basically the same. However, Hall (2005) classifies the types of audits that auditors perform into four; 2.4.1 Internal Audit
The Institute of Internal Auditors defines internal audit as an independent function established within an organisation to examine and evaluate the audit activities as a service to the organisation. Internal audits are conducted by auditors who work for the organization (Ibid). 2.4.2 Information Technology Audit
This is associated with auditors who use technical skills and knowledge to audit through the computer system, or provide audit services where processes or data, or both, are embedded in technologies. Hence, IT audit involves the auditing of information technology, computer system and the like. IT audit allows auditors to audit through the database and computer (Ibid).
2.4.3 Fraud Audit
This is the newest area of auditing, arising out of both rampant employee theft of assets and major financial frauds. In such audits, materiality is irrelevant, and the primary goal is an investigation of anomalies not to give assurance. Hence, fraud audit aims at gathering evidence of fraud and where sufficient evidence exist, fraud audit leads to conviction (Ibid). 2.4.4 Financial Audit
Also referred to as external audits, this involves auditors who work independent of the organisation being audited. The audit objective is to give an opinion on the financial statements (Ibid). 2.5 Types of Auditors
There are a number of different types of auditors; however, they can be classified under four headings: external auditors, internal auditors, government auditors, and forensic auditors. One important requirement of each type of auditor is independence, in some manner, from the entity being audited (Robertson et al., 2002). 2.5.1 External Auditors
External Auditors are often referred to as independent auditors or certified public accountants (CPAs). Such auditors are called “external” because they are not employed by the entity being audited. However, external auditors audit financial statements for publicly traded and private companies, partnerships, municipalities, individuals, and other type of entities. An external auditor may practice as a sole proprietor or as a member of a CPA firm (Robertson et al., 2002). On the other hand, Boynton et al. (2001), describes external auditors as independent having education, training, and thus by virtue of their experience, external auditors are qualified to perform each of the types of activities being the operational audit activity, the audit compliance, and the financial statements audit activity.
Operational audit activity has to do with obtaining and evaluating evidence about the efficiency and effectiveness of an entity’s operating activities in relation to specified objectives. Furthermore, compliance audit activity has to do with obtaining and evaluating evidence to determine whether certain financial or operating activities of an entity conform to specified rules, or regulations (Boynton et al., 2001).Finally, the financial statements audit activity has to do with obtaining and evaluating evidence about an entity’s financial statements for the purpose of expressing an opinion on whether the financial statements are presented fairly in conformity with established criteria-usually Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (Boynton et al.,2001). 2.5.2 Internal Auditors
Internal auditors are auditors employed by individual companies, partnerships, government agencies, individuals, and other entities (Messier et al., 2008). Additionally, internal auditors are also employed extensively by government and nonprofit organisations with the principal goal of investigating and appraising the activities with which the various organisational units of the company are carrying out their assigned functions (Whittington et al., 2004). However, in addition to the provision of consulting services to the organisation, internal auditors pay much attention to the study of internal control. Again, internal auditors are primarily involved with compliance and operational audit activities. With the operational audit activity having to do with the obtaining and evaluating evidence about the efficiency and effectiveness of an entity’s operating activities in relation to specified objectives (Boynton et al., 2001).Furthermore, the compliance audit activity having to do with the obtaining and evaluating evidence to determine whether certain financial or operating activities of an entity conform to specified conditions, rules, or regulations (Boynton et al., 2001). 2.5.3 Government Auditors
Government auditors are employed by federal, state, and local agencies. They generally can be considered a subset of the broader category of internal auditors. At the federal level, two agencies use auditors extensively: the Government Accountability Office and the Internal Revenue Service. The Internal Revenue Agents have their responsibility of enforcing tax laws as defined by congress of parliament and interoperated by the courts. However, the government auditors engage in a wide range of audit activities, including financial statements audit activity, the compliance audit activity and the operational audit activity (Messier et al., 2008). Financial statements audit activity has to do with the obtaining and evaluating evidence about an entity’s financial statements for the purpose of expressing an opinion on whether they are presented fairly in conformity with established criteria-usually Generally Accepted Accounting Principles. The compliance audit activity having to do with the obtaining and evaluating evidence to determine whether certain financial or operating activities of an entity conform to specified conditions, rules, or regulations. Finally, the operational audit activity having to do with the obtaining and evaluating evidence about the efficiency and effectiveness of an entity’s operating activities in relation to specified objectives (Boynton et al., 2001).
2.5.4 Forensic Auditors
Forensic auditors are employed by corporations, government agencies, public accounting firms, and consulting and investigative services firms. They are trained in detecting, investigating, and deterring fraud and corruption (Boynton et al., 2001). 2.6 Roles of the Auditor
The role of both the internal and external auditor in the business and economic life of the society is very important. Modern business enterprises are quite large and mostly in corporate form wherein shareholders do not necessarily engage in the running of the management team to run the business on behalf of the shareholders. As a result, management is required to prepare and submit accounts of their stewardship to reflect the true financial position of the entity’s activities (Yiadom, 2009). ¬The Role of the Auditor in the Internal Control
Internal control is broadly defined as a process, executed by an entity’s board of directors, management, and other personnel, designed to provide reasonable assurance regarding the achievement of objectives in the following internal control categories: 1.Effectiveness and efficiency of operations.
2.Reliability of financial reporting.
3.Compliance with laws and regulations.
Management is responsible for internal control. Managers establish policies and processes to help the organization achieve specific objectives in each of these categories. Auditors perform audits to evaluate whether the policies and processes are designed and operating effectively and provide recommendations for improvement (Messier et al., 2008). ¬The Role of the Auditor in Corporate Governance
Corporate governance is a combination of processes and organizational structures implemented by the Board of Directors to inform, direct, manage, and monitor the organization’s resources, strategies and policies towards the achievement of the organizations objectives. The internal auditor is often considered one of the “four pillars” of corporate governance, the other pillars being the Board of Directors, management, and the external auditor(Business web (online) 2006 http://www.allbusiness.com).
A primary focus area of internal auditing as it relates to corporate governance is helping the Audit Committee of the Board of Directors (or equivalent) perform its responsibilities effectively. This may include reporting critical internal control problems, informing the Committee privately on the capabilities of key managers, suggesting questions or topics for the Audit Committee’s meeting agendas, and coordinating with the external auditor(Business web (online) 2006 http://www.allbusiness.com). ¬Role of the Auditor in Risk Management
Auditing professional standards require the function of the auditor to monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of the organization’s risk management processes. Risk management relates to how an organization sets objectives, then identifies, analyzes, and responds to those risks that could potentially impact its ability to realize its objectives. Management performs risk assessment activities as part of the ordinary course of business in each of these categories. Examples include: strategic planning, marketing planning, capital planning, budgeting, hedging, incentive payout structure, and credit/lending practices. Sarbanes-Oxley regulations also require extensive risk assessment of financial reporting processes (Business web (online) 2006 http://www.allbusiness.com). Corporate legal counsel often prepares comprehensive assessments of the current and potential litigation a company faces. Internal auditors may evaluate each of these activities, or focus on the processes used by management to report and monitor the risks identified.
For example, internal auditors can advise management regarding the reporting of forward-looking operating measures to the Board, to help identify emerging risks (Business web (online) 2006 http://www.allbusiness.com). In larger organizations, major strategic initiatives are implemented to achieve objectives and drive changes. As a member of senior management, the Chief Audit Executive may participate in status updates on these major initiatives. This places the Chief Audit Executive in the position to report on many of the major risks the organization faces to the Audit Committee, or ensure management’s reporting is effective for that purpose (Business web (online) 2006 http://www.allbusiness.com). 2.7 Overview of Corruption
Although there is no universal or comprehensive definition as to what constitutes corrupt behaviour, most definitions share a common emphasis upon the abuse of public power or position for personal advantage (Boadi, 2002 vol.4 no.2).The Oxford Unabridged Dictionary defines corruption as “perversion or destruction of integrity in the discharge of public duties by bribery or favour.” Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary defines it as “inducement to wrong by improper or unlawful means (as bribery).” A succinct definition of corruption used by the World Bank is “the abuse of public office for private gain.”Corruption is a complex multi-faceted social phenomenon with innumerable manifestations.
It takes place as an outcome of deficiencies in the existing public administration apparatuses and systems as well as cultural, economic, political and social factors. Differences of opinion still exist as to the meaning of the term corruption. This is primarily because individuals look at corruption from their own vantage points influenced by surrounding environment (Khan, 2004). Coherently, Swain& Dininio (2000), explains corruption as the abuse of public office for private gain. It encompasses unilateral abuses by government officials such as embezzlement and nepotism, as well as abuses linking public and private actors such as bribery extortion, influence peddling, and fraud. 2.8 Corruptive Issues in an Organisation
Corruptive issues arise in an organization where both employers and employees embark on any act classified as corruption (Balkaran, 2000). 2.8.1 Causes of Corruption Khan (2004), defines corruption as a phenomenon that takes place due to the presence of a number of factors. An understanding of such factors requires, among other things, a kind of general framework for a clearer understanding of the causes of corruption, especially from a broader perspective. However, Goudie & Strange (2000), explained that the genesis of corruption can be looked at from three levels being the international, the national and the individual institutional level.
Competitiveness of international markets provides multinational companies of various sizes with an incentive to offer bribes to gain an advantage over competitors. At the national level basic development strategy of any government moulds opportunities and incentives for corruption. At the same level three relationships – between the government and the civil service, between the government and the judiciary and between the government and the civil society – also affect the nature and discussions of corruption. Three areas of government activity – customs administration, business regulation and management of foreign aid – act as sources of corruption at the level of individual institutions (Goudie & Strange, 2000). 2.8.2 Forms of Corruption
Corruption takes many forms; acceptance of money and other rewards for awarding contracts, violation of procedures to advance personal interests, kickbacks from developmental programmes or multi-national corporations, pay-offs for legislative support, diversion of public resources for private use, overlooking illegal activities, intervening in the justice process, nepotism, common theft, overpricing, establishing non-existing projects and tax collection and tax assessment frauds (Khan, 2004). 2.9 The Auditor’s Role in Fighting Corruption in an Organisation “Auditors are the first set of gatekeepers in fighting corruption in an organisation” (Harding,2000,p.12).
Auditors ensure that transactions are valid, at arms-length, captured, and properly recorded according to established standards which contributes to the fight of corruption. Secondly, As professionals with a duty to protect the public interest, auditors are bound by rigorous codes of professional and personal ethics calling for the highest levels of integrity and objectivity. Again, with key strategic positions within an enterprise or organization; whether in an internal position or as an external position, mean that auditors very often have access to highly privileged and confidential information (Harding, 2000). Furthermore, as Balkaran (2000), puts it, the auditor helps in fighting corruption in an organisation through the performance of the respective functions on the bases of national and international standards of practice which have clear guidelines identifying, for instance, indicators of fraud and other irregularities, and reporting these to the highest levels of authority.
Scaling down to the types of auditors, Balkaran (2000), outlines that, the revised response of internal auditing, places more responsibility on internal auditors in helping to fight corruption. After all, as the eyes and ears of management, they are there year-round, understand the operations of a business, and are bound by even more in-depth standards of performance and conduct. Moreover, the work of the internal auditor is often relied upon by the external (independent) auditors and therefore subject to more stringent requirements.
University/College: University of Arkansas System
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 23 March 2016
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