Great Expectations?: The Dubious Financial Legacy of Quality Audits

Tracey A. Swift, Christopher Humphrey, Vishal Gor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In recent years there appears to have been a veritable boom in the provision of 'quality audits' - that is, audits of organizations' production processes and management systems. Despite the rising significance of this international audit movement affecting hundreds of thousands of organizations world-wide, there has been limited interest in, or critique of, the practice of quality audit by academic auditing researchers. This paper traces the history of quality assurance standards and auditing and finds that quality auditing is not simply an outgrowth of an engineering inspection function. Rather, for several decades, quality auditors have consciously modelled their practice on that of the statutory financial audit, which in turn, exposes them to similar issues with regard to the long standing 'expectations gap' debate. Yet, despite what the authors argue are critical links with the financial audit, there has not been any notable involvement on the part of the accounting profession with quality auditing. The growing demand for 'added-value' audits poses considerable questions for the future development and organizational significance of quality auditing. Current developments in both quality and financial audit services suggest that these two influential audit movements are now competing against each other to promote business excellence and contribute to business strategy.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)31-45
Number of pages14
JournalBritish Journal of Management
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2000


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