The person conducting audit is known as the auditor; he makes a report to the person appointing him after due examination of the accounting records and the accounting statement in the form of an opinion on the financial statements. The opinion that he is called upon to express is whether the financial statement reflect a true and fair view. Auditing, especially of companies and for public purposes has become the preserve of persons having recognised professional training and qualification. In India, under the authority of the Companies Act, 1956, only Chartered Accountants, are professionally qualified for the audit of the accounts of companies. Students may note that the provision relating to restricted state auditors was a transitory provision and has no relevance now. Chartered Accountants are in a position to undertake auditing of almost any accounting aspect, unlike cost accountants whose
sphere has been restricted to audit of the cost accounting records and statements. By and large, it is chartered accountants or a firm whose all partners are chartered accountants who act as auditors in India.
Functional Classification of Auditors : Internal Audit vs. External Audit
On the basis of functional division, auditors can be classified in two broad categories, namely, external auditors and internal auditors. External auditors are the persons who practise the profession of accountancy having qualified in the professional examination and are external vis-a-vis the organisation of which they audit the accounts. The internal auditors, on the other hand, may also be professionally qualified and are internal vis-a-vis the organisation in which they are appointed to perform specific work.
They are considered internal because their appointment is done by the management and the scope of work is also specified by it. They may be appointed either on a contract basis or as employees to undertake auditing of the books and records as a part of management control and appraisal system.
The external auditors, on the other hand, are appointed by the owners of the organisation, say, shareholders of the company and thus they are treated external to the organisation in which they have been appointed. When an external auditor is appointed under a particular statute, such auditor may be known as the statutory auditor. Their scope of work is determined by the statute under which they have been appointed. Another significant distinction between the internal and external auditor is that the former is not considered independent vis-a-vis the management of the organisation while the latter is independent of the management of the organisation which is responsible for the preparation of the books of account. Finally the scope of work of an internal auditor may extend even beyond the financial accounting and may include cost investigation, inquiries relating to losses and wastages, production
audit, performance audit, etc. It must be remembered that the basic foundation of any type of auditing, whether internal or external, envisages that the auditor must be independent of the activity for which he is going to conduct an audit. Even though the internal auditor is an employee yet he must be independent to the extent practicable.
Qualities of an Auditor
So far we have discussed the question of formal qualifications of an auditor. But it is not enough to realise what an auditor should be. He is concerned with the reporting on financial matters of business and other institutions. Financial matters, inherently are to be set with the problems of human fallibility; errors and frauds are frequent. The qualities required, according to Dicksee, are tact, caution, firmness, good temper, integrity, discretion, industry, judgement, patience, clear headedness and reliability. In short, all those personal qualities that go to make a good businessman contribute to the making of a good auditor. In addition, he must have the shine of culture for attaining a great height. He must have the highest degree of integrity backed by adequate independence. In fact, AAS-1 mentions integrity, objectivity and independence as one of the basic principles.
He must have a thorough knowledge of the general principles of law which govern matters with which he is likely to be in intimate contact. The Companies Act, 1956 and the Partnership Act, 1932 need special mention but mercantile law, specially the law relating to contracts, is no less important.
Auditing and Assurance
Needless to say, where undertakings are governed by a special statute, its knowledge will be imperative; in addition, a sound knowledge of the law and practice of taxation is unavoidable.
He must pursue an intensive programme of theoretical education in subjects like financial and management accounting, general management, business and corporate laws, computers and information systems, taxation, economics, etc. Both practical training and theoretical education are equally necessary for the development of professional competence of an auditor for undertaking any kind of audit assignment.
The auditor should be equipped not only with a sufficient knowledge of the way in which business generally is conducted but also with an understanding of the special features peculiar to a particular business whose accounts are under audit. AAS-8 on ‘Audit Planning’ emphasises that an auditor should have adequate knowledge of the client’s business. The auditor, who holds a position of trust, must have the basic human qualities apart from the technical requirement of professional training and education.
He is called upon constantly to critically review financial statements and it is obviously useless for him to attempt that task unless his own knowledge is that of an expert. An exhaustive knowledge of accounting in all its branches is the sine qua non of the practice of auditing. He must know thoroughly all accounting principles and techniques.
Auditing is a profession calling for wide variety of knowledge to which no one has yet set a limit; the most useful part of the knowledge is probably that which cannot be learnt from books because its acquisition depends on the alertness of the mind in applying to ever varying circumstances, the fruits of his own observation and reflection; only he who is endowed with common sense in adequate measure can achieve it.
Lord Justice Lindley in the course of the judgment in the famous London & General Bank case had succinctly summed up the overall view of what an auditor should be as regards the personal qualities.
He said, “an auditor must be honest that is, he must not certify what he does not believe to be true and must take reasonable care and skill before he believes that what he certifies is true”.