This paper aims to examine the perceptions of auditor roles on the workpaper review process in current audit practice. Specifically, the paper investigates how an auditor’s defined role leads to perceived differences in what initiates the workpaper review process, the preferred methods for performing reviews and the stylization or framing of communicated review comments.
A survey was administered in which practicing auditors were asked about workpaper review process prompts, methods and preferences. The survey was completed by 215 auditors from each of the Big 4 accounting firms and one additional international firm. The final data set consists of quantitative and qualitative responses from 25 audit partners, 33 senior managers, 30 managers, 75 in-charge auditors/seniors and 52 staff auditors.
Findings indicate reviewers and preparers differ in their perceptions of the review process based on their defined roles. First, reviewers and preparers differ in their perspectives on which factors initiate the review process. Second, the majority of reviewers and preparers prefer face-to-face communication when discussing review notes. Reviewers, however, are more likely to believe the face-to-face method is an effective way to discuss review notes and to facilitate learning, whereas preparers prefer the method primarily because it reduces back-and-forth communication. Finally, reviewers believe they predominantly provide conclusion-based review notes, whereas preparers perceive review notes as having both conclusion- and documentation-based messages.
This paper advances the academic literature by providing a unique perspective on the review process. Instead of investigating a single staff level, it examines the workpaper review process on a broader scale. By obtaining views from professionals across all levels, this work intends to inspire future research directed at reconciling differences and filling gaps in the review process literature. The finding that reviewers and preparers engage in role conformity that leads to incongruent perceptions of the review process should encourage the consideration of mechanisms, with the potential to be tested experimentally, by which to reconcile the incongruities.
Results support recent regulator concerns that there are breakdowns in the workpaper review process, and the findings provide some insight into why these breakdowns are occurring. Incongruent perceptions of review process characteristics may be the drivers of these identified regulatory concerns.
This is the first study to examine current workpaper review processes at the largest accounting firms from the perspective of both preparers and reviewers. From this unique data set, one key interpretation of the findings is that workpaper preparers do not appear to recognize a primary goal of the review process: to ensure that subordinates receive appropriate coaching, learning and development. However, workpaper reviewers do, in fact, attempt to support preparers and work to create a supportive team environment.
The authors would like to thank Jean Bedard, Joe Brazel, Kathleen Rupley, Kim Westermann, Arnie Wright and participants at the 2016 AAA Western Region Meeting for their helpful comments on earlier versions of this paper.
Ater, B., Gimbar, C., Jenkins, J.G., Saucedo, G. and Wright, N.S. (2019), "Audit roles and the review process: workpaper preparers’ and reviewers’ differing perspectives", Managerial Auditing Journal, Vol. 34 No. 4, pp. 438-461. https://doi.org/10.1108/MAJ-05-2018-1896Download as .RIS
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