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    How Do Audit Workpaper Reviewers Cope with the Conflicting...
    research summary posted October 13, 2015 by Jennifer M Mueller-Phillips, tagged 06.0 Risk and Risk Management, Including Fraud Risk, 06.05 Assessing Risk of Material Misstatement, 11.0 Audit Quality and Quality Control, 11.01 Supervision and Review – Effectiveness, 11.06 Working Paper Review – Conduct, Biases and Predispositions 
    How Do Audit Workpaper Reviewers Cope with the Conflicting Pressures of Detecting Misstatements and Balancing Client Workloads?
    Practical Implications:

    These findings have implications for both practice and future research. For example, the PCAOB has raised questions about (1) the thoroughness with which engagement managers and partners review audit documentation, and (2) the extent to which their attention to engagements reflects audit-related risks. Further, the IFAC has acknowledged that reviewers in today’s audit environment have alternative ways in which to conduct their reviews, and prior research suggests that the choice of review format has implications for audit. The results presented here advance the understanding of the factors that influence this choice. The findings provide insight to firms, regulators, and inspectors regarding the impact of workload pressure and misstatement risk on how audit managers and partners conduct their reviews. These issues are increasingly relevant given recent changes to the regulatory environment.


    Agoglia, C. P., J. F. Brazel, R. C. Hatfield, and S. B. Jackson. 2010. How Do Audit Workpaper Reviewers Cope with the Conflicting Pressures of Detecting Misstatements and Balancing Client Workloads? Auditing: A Journal of Practice & Theory 29 (2): 27-43.

    audit quality, electronic communication, face-to-face interaction, misstatement risk, review process, workload pressure
    Purpose of the Study:

    This study examines how risk of misstatement and workload pressure affect audit workpaper reviewers’ choice of review format. Recently, auditors have witnessed a number of changes in their regulatory environment that have increased their workloads. The advent of electronic communication and electronic workpapers has provided auditors with the means to alleviate certain pressures on firm resources. Electronically reviewing workpapers and transmitting review notes can ease scheduling issues and reduce reviewer travel time as it permits reviewers to review multiple jobs concurrently and from a remote location. However, prior research suggests that face-to-face communication during review has the potential to improve audit quality. Concerns over the effectiveness of reviews are highlighted by recent PCAOB inspections which raise questions about how engagement risk impacts the thoroughness of the review process. Further, the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC) acknowledges current alternatives available to reviewers and advises that explicit consideration be given to the review format choice during the audit planning process. While prior research has concentrated on the impact and extent of review, the study contributes to the literature by focusing on the choice between alternative review formats.

    Design/Method/ Approach:

    The authors surveyed twenty-three practicing auditor managers and partners to learn their beliefs about in-person and electronic communication during review. Seventy-eight percent of survey participants were from international firms, while 22 percent were from large regional firms. For the authors experiment participants were 60 practicing auditors from international, national, and large regional firms. They were primarily managers (43 percent) and partners (50 percent) with an average of 14.5 years of experience. Evidence was gathered prior to July 2009.


    Results of the survey suggest that reviewers view in-person interaction during review as more effective and electronic interaction as more convenient. In addition, reviewers report that they use electronic and in-person communication for roughly an equal proportion of their reviews. Results of the experiment indicate that risk of misstatement and workload pressure interact to affect participants’ review mode choices. Misstatement risk moderates the effect of workload pressure such that, when risk is high, the effect of workload pressure is effectively eliminated. These findings suggest that reviewers perceive reviews involving face-to-face interaction to be more appropriate when effectiveness of procedures is essential to ensure an acceptable level of audit quality and, when risk conditions allow, consider electronic review to be a practicable way to cope with workload pressures associated with a hectic client schedule.

    Given the survey and experimental results, the authors conclude that reviewers will choose to sacrifice convenience when higher risk calls for employing a more effective review format. They document a relationship between risk and review format. Therefore, the authors are able to shed light on how auditors are concurrently reacting to the pressures of client risk and balancing a portfolio of clients while maintaining audit quality.

    Audit Quality & Quality Control, Risk & Risk Management - Including Fraud Risk
    Assessing Risk of Material Misstatement, Engagement Quality Review – Processes & Effectiveness, Working Paper Review – Conduct - Biases & Predispositions