Auditor-client relationships: an assessment of relationship quality.
MetadataShow full item record
Corporate failures and financial scandals are not a phenomenon of the 21st century. In the 1990s, the British economy witnessed the collapse of some well-known companies such as Polly Peck, Sock Shop, Coloroll, BCCI, Maxwell Group, etc. In the US, the problem has resulted in unprecedented financial scandals with Enron, WorldCom and others. Auditors for these firms gave a seal of approval to these companies. Later on the same companies faced liquidation and fraud. In this situation, which has brought the whole profession under scrutiny, the autonomy of auditing is being undermined. Hence, academics have raised the issue and called for government intervention and to make auditors responsible for detecting and reporting fraud. Accountants as auditors find themselves in a conflicting situation. Therefore, the accounting profession faces a dilemma. On one hand, they have to remain independent and show their integrity: auditors are motivated to comply with professional ethics and acceptable auditing standards, while on the other hand, the pressure from competition and more demanding clients is forcing the profession to sell other services and become client-centred. This situation may lead to dilution of the professional standards, which the auditor wishes to avoid. Failure to comply with the client's (auditee) expectations may result in sanctions by them, including the possibility of discontinuation of the relationship. Therefore, this study investigates the auditor-client relationship phenomenon and how to restore public confidence. Moreover, it intends to critically examine the key elements in enhancing the service quality and auditor performance and consequently build quality relationships between the auditors and their corporate clients. The research methodology employed in this study combines a qualitative investigation (part one) and a quantitative approach (part two: survey questionnaire to clients of audit firms). The importance of the dyadic relationship suggested that both sides should be studied. This was done with four pairs (eight interviews) of dyads and the results helped to provide a clear understanding of the situation and as will be shown a framework of the relationship process emerged from this research. Although the process of relationships was clarified the degree of importance of different variables meant that it would be difficult to generalise results as predictor for auditor-client relationships. That is a key objective in this research. As a result a quantitative survey of a cross-section of clients from different industries in Scotland was undertaken. This empirical study reveals that the identified constructs (elements) are important in the auditor-client relationships. Moreover, the quality in a relationship is vital to successful outcomes. This study intends to show the value of plausible outcomes, i.e., the study may claim to have achieved a contribution to the body of knowledge, to methodologies for qualitative research and some managerial implications such as how to build a positive image for the accountancy profession as well as how to restore the public confidence about the audit criticism.