Audit Quality in Practice: A Study of Perceptions of Auditors, Audit Committee Members and Quality Inspectors

  • Noor Adwa Sulaiman

Student thesis: Phd


The aim of this thesis is to provide insights into what the concept of audit quality means for a number of parties who have responsibilities for delivering, commissioning or evaluating audit quality in practice - auditors, AC members and quality inspectors concerning. It explores the influence of internal and external factors in the auditing setting on the construction of meaning of audit quality and how meaning is symbolised in practice. This research is based on an interpretive approach employing research methods of document analysis, semi-structured interviews and a survey questionnaire. Drawing on a symbolic interactionist framework, the research illustrates the process of giving meaning to audit quality in practice. The study identifies various constructs that give meaning to audit quality in practice - auditors' characteristics, firm's characteristics, compliance obligations, the content and control of audit procedures, financial statement quality and client service orientation. It also identifies acts such as asking challenging questions, professional appearance, the quality of interaction between auditor and AC, consultation and training, and objects such as documents and records as fundamental in symbolising audit quality in practice. The study also highlights the existence of possible conflicts between some of these constructs of audit quality and the potential for problems in audit quality in practice.The research reports that the audit practitioners predominantly framed their conceptions of the meaning of audit quality around four important constructs: client service, compliance obligations, the technical audit process or content, and individual auditors' characteristics. Client service is found to have a particular importance for the practitioners' meaning of audit quality. Their construction of the meaning for audit quality is influenced by interactions with other audit market constituents as well as by economic and societal forces in the auditing environment. Auditors perceptions of what quality means in practice are underpinned by factors such as the need to legitimise the conduct of the auditor, to restore trust and confidence in the public at large about the quality of audit services, to maintain profitability and the survival of the audit firm given the competitive and commercial pressures in the audit market, and to legitimise firm methodology and the resulting audit process to outside constituents.Amongst the AC members interviewed, the meaning of audit quality appears to be associated with the characteristics of individual auditors, in particular, auditors' interpersonal and behavioural skills, attributes of the audit firm (size and industry specialisation) and financial statement quality. The findings show that AC members perceptions of audit quality significantly depend on the 'relational' rather than the technical attributes of individual auditors. The quality of the financial statements also dominates the AC members' perceptions of audit quality rather than a technical interpretation of the quality of the content of the audit process. The AC members' conception of meaning for audit quality is influenced by interaction and communication with the external auditors. For the quality inspectors, the meaning of audit quality is mainly constructed in relation to the conduct or content of an audit. Therefore, the level of challenge to the management of the audit, and the sufficiency of evidence and documentation are important for constructing their perceptions of audit quality. They also ascribe considerable importance to the internal compliance-quality control applied within the audit firm the notion of audit quality. Overall, the study describes the multifaceted meaning of audit quality and how this is influenced and shaped by interactions - based on role expectations, self-image, economic and social factors - and illustrates the way in which various acts and objects are used to represent practical meaning
Date of Award1 Aug 2013
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorWilliam Turley (Supervisor) & Mahbub Zaman (Supervisor)


  • Audit committee members
  • Quality inspectors
  • Audit quality
  • Symbolic interactionist
  • Perceptions

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