- An independent review of an asset, liability, activity, organization, or set of *financial statements. Audits are usually performed to support or refute defined *audit objectives, and normally result in an *audit opinion on the matter under review. There is no single, satisfactory definition of auditing, but the following examples illustrate widely held interpretations of the term:
(i) "Auditing is a systematic process of objectively obtaining and *evaluating evidence regarding assertions about economic actions and events to ascertain the degree of correspondence between those assertions and established criteria and communicating the results to interested parties" (American Accounting Association, 1973).
(ii) "Auditing is a human evaluation process to establish the adherence to certain norms, resulting in an opinion (or judgment)" (Schandl, 1978, 4).
(iii) "The purpose of the audit is to investigate and review the actions (or inaction), decisions, achievements, statements or reports of specified persons with defined responsibilities, to compare these actions, etc. with some norm, and to form and express an opinion on the result of that investigation, review or comparison" (Flint, 1988, 20).
(iv) An audit is a means of "monitoring the behavior of *agents" in the context of *agency theory" (Lee, 1993, 23).
The term audit is used widely, and it includes the following:
(i) *external audit,(ii) *internal audit, (iii) *environmental audit, (iv) *financial audit, (v) Operational audit, (vi) *clinical audit, (vii) *management audit, and (viii) *social audit. It has been claimed that auditing is "an old science with well-established principles" (Ridley and Chambers, 1998, xx). There is evidence of auditing practices that date from classical empires of Rome and China, which created elaborate civil services to monitor and report on government finances. Some commentators even claim that auditing practices date from the very dawn of literate civilization: "According to earliest Mesopotamian records dating back to 3600 BC, scribes used to prepare summaries of financial transactions. These were separate from the lists of amounts handled and which others had prepared tiny marks, dots, and circles indicated the painstaking comparison of one record with another - marks that have survived the centuries and that auditors still use to *tick off their Verification of records. Thus were born two control devices still used around the world: *division of duties, and provision for the review of another’s work" (Sawyer and Vinten, 1996, 23). In England in the Middle Ages, many of the parties interested in manorial audits were illiterate and audits were usually presented orally. As a result, the modern English word "audit" came into use, derived from the Latin verb audire ("to hear"). Despite auditing’s long history, the discipline’s dramatic and apparently inexorable rise since World War II has been met with disapproval by some commentators, who see it as a symptom of a decline in trust between individuals and organizations. The external audit, for example, has been described as "the principal means by which *accountability is attempted when trust in relationships disappears" (Lee, 1998, 219). Others have portrayed auditing as a parasitical activity: "The "*audit society is a symptom of the times, coincidentally a fin de siecle, in which a gulf has opened up between poorly rewarded ‘doing’ and highly rewarded ‘observing’" (Power, 1997,147). Some commentators have also drawn attention to an alleged obscurity at the heart of auditing theory - for example, auditing has been described as "paradoxical, tense and subjective" (Frecknall Hughes et al., 1998, 98). Concerns over the substance of auditing theory may reflect discomfort with the sheer variety of social practices that have adopted the term "audit." However, notwithstanding the frequency of criticisms of auditing’s social and political functions (e.g., in the writings of the *critical accounting movement), auditing practices have been adopted by most *private and *public sector organizations. Further reading: American Accounting Association (1973); Flint (1988); Lee (1993); Power (1997); Schandl (1978); Wolnizer (1987)
Auditor's dictionary. 2014.