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The utilisation of generalized audit software (GAS) by external auditors

Aidi Ahmi (Department of Information Systems and Computing, Brunel University, London, UK)
Simon Kent (Department of Information Systems and Computing, Brunel University, London, UK)

Managerial Auditing Journal

ISSN: 0268-6902

Article publication date: 1 January 2013

Abstract

Purpose

Generalized audit software (GAS) is the tool use by auditors to automate various audit tasks. As most accounting transactions are now computerized, auditing of accounting data is also expected to be computerized as well. While GAS is the most popular of computer assisted audit tools and techniques (CAATTs), research shows that there is little evidence that GAS has been universally adopted by external auditors. The purpose of this paper is to investigate the utilization of GAS by external auditors in the UK. The paper focuses on small and medium‐sized audit firms in the UK whereas most other GAS studies have examined “Big 4” firms. Registered statutory auditors have been selected as a sample.

Design/methodology/approach

A framework was developed to identify a range of relevant factors which are important when considering the application of GAS. A web‐based survey has been used to gather the perceptions based on the responses from 205 statutory auditors across the UK. The questions posed to respondents were mapped against the framework.

Findings

The research finds that the utilization of GAS is unusually low among audit firms in the UK. About 73 per cent of external auditors make no use of GAS, due to the perceived limited benefit of using GAS for auditing small clients. While some respondents recognized the advantages of GAS, they were put off by what they believed to be high implementation costs; significant learning curve and adoption process; and lack of ease of use – they showed a preference for using traditional manual auditing methods instead.

Research limitations/implications

The paper focuses on small and medium‐sized auditors, and as such the results cannot be extrapolated to Big 4 auditors. Consequently, the responses and conclusions are relevant to the use of GAS during audits of smaller and medium‐sized companies which make up the client base of such audit firms.

Originality/value

This is one of the few studies that have sought to research the utilization of GAS by the external auditor.

Keywords

Citation

Ahmi, A. and Kent, S. (2013), "The utilisation of generalized audit software (GAS) by external auditors", Managerial Auditing Journal, Vol. 28 No. 2, pp. 88-113. https://doi.org/10.1108/02686901311284522

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2013, Emerald Group Publishing Limited