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3. How can Audit Firms and Auditors promote Professional Skepticism?

Updated: Jul 3

Professional Skepticism is influenced by personal behavioural characteristics (i.e., attitudes and ethical values) and the level of competence (i.e., knowledge) of the individual conducting the audit.


These, in turn, are influenced by education, training, and experience.


The Professional Skepticism of the engagement team is also influenced by the behaviour of the firm's leadership and engagement team partners and the firm's culture and business environment.


The ISAs and ISQC 1 include requirements and guidance designed to help create an environment at the firm and engagement level where auditors can develop appropriate Professional Skepticism.


职业怀疑态度受个人行为特征(即态度和道德价值观)以及进行审计的个人的能力水平(即知识)的影响。


而这些反过来,又受到教育、培训和经验的影响。


参与团队的职业怀疑态度也受到事务所领导层和参与团队合伙人的行为以及事务所的文化和商业环境的影响。


国际审计准则 (ISAs) 和国际质量控制标准第1号 (ISQC 1) 涵盖一些要求和指导,主要是为了帮助在事务所和业务层面间创造一个环境,使审计师能够培养适当的职业怀疑精神。



Firm-Level

The firm's leadership and the examples that it sets have a tremendous impact on the culture within the firm. Therefore, the "tone at the top" and the ongoing reinforcement of the necessity of Professional Scepticism on audit engagements are crucial factors that influence the conduct of individuals.


The firm has the opportunity to set expectations for Professional Scepticism and to underline the significance of doing so, for example, when:


  • Establishes policies and procedures tailored to build an internal culture recognising that quality is crucial in performing engagements.


  • Promoting a quality-oriented internal culture through clear, consistent and frequent actions and messages from all levels of the firm's management. This can be communicated through various mediums, including but not limited to training seminars, meetings, formal or informal conversations, mission statements, newsletters, or briefing memoranda. Such actions and messages encourage a culture that recognises and rewards high-quality work. They may be incorporated in the firm's internal documentation and training materials as well as in partner and staff appraisal procedures to support and reinforce the firm's view on the importance of quality and how, practically, it is to be achieved. 


  • Establishing policies and procedures to assure the firm that it has sufficient personnel with the necessary competence, capabilities, and commitment to ethical principles. In this regard, fostering an internal culture based on quality can be achieved through adopting policies and processes that address performance, evaluation, compensation, and promotion (including incentive systems) that give adequate recognition and reward to the growth and maintenance of competence.


  • Creating and implementing internal training and Continuing Professional Education programmes for employees at all levels of the firm. This can be accomplished in various ways, such as through work experience, training while on the job, mentoring from more experienced personnel (for instance, other members of the engagement team), and independence education. It is noted that the continuing competence of firm personnel depends to a significant extent on an appropriate level of Continuing Professional Education and Development.



事务所层面

事务所的领导层及其树立的榜样对事务所内部的文化有着巨大的影响。因此,"高层的基调"和对审计业务中职业怀疑的必要性的不断强化是影响个人行为的关键因素。


事务所有机会就以下方面设定期望并强调职业怀疑态度的重要性,并在以下情况下强调这样做的重要性,例如,当:-


  • 制定量身定做的政策和流程,以建立一种意识到质量对于执行业务至关重要的内部文化。


  • 通过公司各级管理层的清晰、一致和频繁的行动和信息,促进以质量为导向的内部文化。这可以通过各种媒介进行传达,包括但不限于培训研讨会、会议、正式或非正式对话、使命宣言、新闻通讯或简报备忘录。这样的行动和信息鼓励了一种认可和奖励高质量的工作文化。它们可以被纳入公司的内部文件和培训材料以及合作伙伴和员工评估程序,以支持和加强公司对质量重要性以及如何在实践中实现质量的看法。认识到质量对于执行业务至关重要。


  • 制定政策和流程,以确保公司拥有足够的具备必要的才干、能力和对道德原则承诺的人员。在这方面,可以通过采用绩效、评估、薪酬和晋升(包括激励系统)的政策和流程来实现以质量为基础的内部文化。而这些政策和流程,对能力的持续增长给予充分的认可和奖励。


  • 为公司各级员工制定和实施内部培训和专业后续教育计划。这可以通过多种方式实现,例如通过工作累计经验、在职培训、更有经验的人员(例如,参与团队的其他成员)的指导以及独立性教育。值得注意的是,公司人员能力的持续增长在很大程度上取决于专业后续教育与发展的水平。

Engagement Level

At the engagement level, the Engagement Partner is accountable for the overall quality of each audit engagement assigned to that partner.


The actions of the engagement partner and appropriate communications to the other members of the engagement team emphasise the importance of quality in performing audit engagements and the significance of audit quality, such as the engagement team's ability to raise concerns without fear of retaliation and the issuance of auditor's reports that are appropriate for the circumstances.


Discussing the susceptibility of the entity's financial statements to a material misstatement by the engagement partner and other key engagement team members is the optimal time to discuss and emphasise with the engagement team the importance of maintaining Professional Scepticism throughout the audit.


This discussion includes the application of the applicable financial reporting framework to the entity's facts and circumstances, with a focus on how and where the financial statements may be susceptible to material misstatement due to fraud, as well as how fraud could occur (setting aside beliefs that the engagement team members may have that management and TCWG are honest and have integrity).


This discussion also provides a basis upon which engagement team members communicate and share new information that may affect risk assessments or the audit procedures performed.


Other opportunities for the engagement partner to set expectations regarding, and to emphasize the importance of, Professional Scepticism include, for example, when taking responsibility for:

  • The direction, supervision and performance of the audit engagement.

  • Reviews of work performed. In this regard, the engagement partner, in particular, has much knowledge and experience to impart in helping less experienced team members develop a critical and questioning mind through review of, among other matters, critical areas of judgment and significant risks. Timely reviews also allow significant matters (for example, critical areas of judgment, especially those relating to difficult or contentious matters identified during the course of the engagement) to be resolved on or before the date of the auditor’s report.

  • The engagement team undertaking appropriate consultation on difficult or contentious matters

Even though activities on the level of the firm and the engagement contribute to an attitude of Professional Scepticism, it is still the responsibility of each auditor to keep up an attitude of Professional Scepticism.


Throughout the entirety of the audit, both professional judgement and Professional Scepticism must be applied.


By keeping a healthy dose of Professional Scepticism throughout the audit, the auditor can lower the likelihood of making errors such as overlooking unusual circumstances, drawing conclusions that are too broad from audit observations, or making inappropriate assumptions when deciding the nature, timing, and scope of audit procedures and evaluating the results of those procedures.

参与层面

在参与层面,项目负责人 [Engagement Partner] 需对分配给他的每项审计业务的整体质量负责。


项目负责人的行事以及与参与项目的其他成员的适当沟通,强调了执行审计业务的质量以及审计质量的重要性,例如:项目团队成员能够提出怀疑而不必担心遭到报复,以及发布适合具体情况的审计报告。


项目负责人和其他主要项目团队成员讨论实体财务报表对重大错报的敏感性,是与项目团队成员讨论并强调在整个审计过程中保持职业怀疑态度的重要性的最佳时机。


这种讨论也包括将适用的财务报告框架应用于该实体的事实和情况,重点关注财务报表如何以及在何处可能因欺诈而出现重大错报,以及欺诈如何发生(抛开项目团队成员可能认为管理层和TCWG是诚实和正直的信念)。


这种讨论也提供了一个基础,项目团队成员在此基础上沟通和分享可能影响风险评估或所执行的审计程序的新信息。


项目负责人设定有关职业怀疑态度的期望并强调其重要性的其他机会包括,例如,在承担以下责任时:


  • 对审计业务的指导、监督和执行;

  • 对已完成的工作进行审查。在这方面,特别是项目负责人,有着很多知识和经验可以传授,通过对关键领域的判断和重大风险的审查,帮助经验不足的团队成员培养批判和质疑的精神。及时的审查也使重大事项(例如,关键的判断领域,特别是那些在审计过程中发现的问题或有争议的事项)能够在审计报告出具的日期前解决;

  • 项目团队对问题或有争议的事项进行适当的协商


即使事务所和业务层面的参与有助于形成职业怀疑的态度,但保持职业怀疑的态度仍然是每个审计人员的责任。


在整个审计过程中,必须同时运用专业判断和职业怀疑态度。


通过在整个审计过程中保持健康的职业怀疑态度,审计师可以降低犯错误的可能性,如忽视异常情况,从审计观察中得出过于宽泛的结论,或在决定审计流程的性质、时间和范围以及评估这些流程的结果时做出不适当的假设。



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