Professional scepticism: inside the mind of the auditor

On 17 October 2017 ACCA organised a conference called "Professional scepticism: inside the mind of the auditor".

The issue of professional scepticism in audit remains a critical area.  Auditors’ perceived lack of professional scepticism is seen by audit oversight bodies and the public as being at the root of issues with audit quality. This criticism has risen in importance since the global financial crisis, and auditors and standard-setters are under pressure to enhance professional scepticism. 

As part of efforts to enhance audit quality, the IAASB, IESBA and the IAESB issued a joint publication called 'Toward Enhanced Professional Skepticism', in which they note that the importance of enhanced professional scepticism is underscored by the increasing complexity of business and financial reporting.

ACCA  is also shedding some light on the debate, from the perspective of cognitive biases. The global accountancy body published a report called Banishing bias? Audit, objectivity and the value of professional scepticism,  which was the basis of a lively experts debate in Brussels.

Arnold Schilder, Chairman IAASB, opened the discussion and the ACCA report was presented by Andrew Gambier, Head of Audit and Assurance, ACCA. Maggie McGhee, Director Professional Insights, ACCA, moderated the panel that was comprised of Lieve Cornelis, EY, Partner, Anne-Hélène Monsellato, ecoDa (Chair of its Working Group on Audit Committees) / Chair of Audit Committees in various companies, Kristian Koktvedgaard, IESBA CAG Chair & BusinessEurope, and Prof. Dr Kris Hardies, Department Accountancy and Finance, University of Antwerp.

Discussions revealed that everybody has a role to play in supporting the exercise of professional scepticism: auditors can do more but others must support them too. The debate clearly revealed that bias is everywhere in human decision-making. Stakeholders need to work with natural human biases, rather than ignoring them. It was also stressed that awareness of bias can help to mitigate it, and several speakers acknowledged the contribution of ACCA’s report towards improving the exercise of professional scepticism.

Watch highlights of the event and download the event report

See also article in Brussels Times