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Opening the black box of distance within the context of auditing
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Stockholm Centre for Organizational Research (SCORE). Handelshögskolan i Stockholm, Sweden.ORCID iD: 0000-0001-5970-6137
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Stockholm Centre for Organizational Research (SCORE).
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Stockholm Business School.
2017 (English)Conference paper, Published paper (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

In this paper we analyze the role of distance in the construction of independence in financial and certification auditing. The ideal of independence tends to be regarded as a core value and the key feature for our trust in auditing services and the construction of independence has been of interest for auditing researchers for a long time. Previous studies of financial audit have shown that independence is commonly secured through the establishment of generic auditing standards. Through standards auditing work supposedly is turned into a transparent, neutral and rather “technical” matter of comparing rule against practice which, in turn, also safeguards independence in relation to the auditee. Another, complimentary way of constructing independence in financial auditing is to refer to a professional ethos, disciplining the auditor to be independent from the auditee. In the world of certifications, the idea of using a generic standard dominates and for the construction of independence to be credible, it is also important that the organization setting such standards is not the same as the organization performing the audit. Moreover, there are specific accreditation organizations auditing the certification auditors with reference to standards set by another (standard-setting) organization and by such auditing procedure granting independence for the certifier, a rational ideal of a watchdog watching the watchdog through means of organization. In sum, independence is constructed by referring to a professional ethos, by using generic auditing standards or by organizational separation. Furthermore, auditing work is supposed to avoid involvement of political and commercial interests.    

One common denominator in these independence constructions is that independence is closely connected to the idea of distance: in order for the auditor to be independent, some sort of distance is needed from the auditee. Being independent and keeping a distance from the auditee is, in turn, assumed to create trust in the audit. However, as we conceptually elaborate and empirically show in this paper, audits can gain trust in other ways than the common assumption: trust can be installed in audits even though the auditor is not clearly separated from the auditee, even though the auditing process is not made transparent by standards, even though the auditor is providing consultancy and even though the audit has a clear political agenda. By discussing ideas of independence in relation to different dimensions of distance, we contribute with new insights into how auditing practices are organized in order to be trustworthy. We also contribute with new theoretical insights to the discussion about distance and independence within both the financial and certification audit literature. 

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2017.
National Category
Business Administration
Research subject
Business Administration
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-149667OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-149667DiVA, id: diva2:1163729
Conference
The 24th Nordic Academy of Management Conference, "Nordic Opportunities", Bodø, Norway, August 23-25, 2017
Note

Presenterades i Track 24: PUBLIC SERVICES AND NON-PROFITS - AND THE NEW MANAGEMENT CHALLENGES FACING INTER-ORGANIZATIONAL CONTROL AND THE NEED FOR TRANSPARENCY.

Available from: 2017-12-07 Created: 2017-12-07 Last updated: 2022-02-28Bibliographically approved

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Tamm Hallström, KristinaGustafsson, IngridSvärdsten, Fredrik

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