A few words about underreporting hours in audit firms

2. How auditor experience and professional commitment are involved

What do the authors of the noted paper find?  Let’s start with the study itself.  The authors performed a survey of auditors.  The goal was to understand how professional commitment and audit experience impact staff’s attitude towards underreporting time (do they consider underreporting time acceptable and ethical?).

Auditor experience is self-explanatory: how many years of experience staff have.  Professional commitment is defined as “dedication to a professional career, identification with the professional, and acceptance of the profession’s goals and ethics.”

The authors find an interesting association between professional commitment and the acceptance of underreporting and between auditor experience and the acceptance of underreporting.  First, the higher the staff experience is, the lower the staff’s acceptance of underreporting hours.  Staff with more experience tend to be more convinced that underreporting time is unacceptable. Second, professional commitment also impacts staff’s acceptance of underreporting time in a way that higher professional commitment is associated with lower underreporting acceptance; however, this relationship is the most prominent in staff with less auditor experience.  Yes, you read it right: professional commitment of auditors with more years in the profession don’t seem to negatively impact their acceptance of underreporting time.  On the other hand, less experienced auditors believe that underreporting time is acceptable when their professional commitment is low, and vice versa (i.e., less experienced auditors believe that underreporting time is not acceptable when their professional commitment is high).

These findings also pass the reality check.  More experienced auditors are likely more devoted to their profession, so their professional commitment is higher; thus, they don’t seem to think that underreporting time is a good thing.  On the other hand, less experienced auditors with low commitment to the profession may not see such a big deal in underreporting time.  At the same time, less experienced auditors with higher professional commitment to auditing may view underreporting time unethical and thus less acceptable.

What can be done to reduce the acceptance of underreporting time by less experienced auditors?  The authors of the paper include some recommendations about increasing professional commitment of less experienced auditors:

  • Continuing education
  • Professional accounting qualifications
  • Organizational culture
  • Professional membership requirements and services
  • Internships during which future auditors can boost their professional commitment
  • Outreach by more experienced auditors prior to or after less experienced auditors enter the profession
  • Training for more experienced auditors about their role in relation to less experienced auditors
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