I’ve always been a fan of diversity and equality. I am particularly so in an audit context. Why? Well audit is fundamentally about forming an opinion. The more diverse the people forming the opinion (by age, background, experience, qualifications etc) the stronger the opinion is.

The opinion is of course the accountability of me as the CAE. The opinion is, in reality however, formed by the whole team. At an assignment level it is formed not just by the in charge auditor, but also those who support them in their work and those who review the file. In my view, the more views of the opinion, the more robust it is, the opinion is ‘tri-angulated’.

Now, as a CAE, I feel the weight of forming the opinion particularly. This is because I am the one who sits in the audit committee and presents the opinion. Thus what if the auditor’s opinion is not persuasive or I can’t support it? Well, simply, I have changed it, or I have asked for further work to persuade me of the auditor’s view. I do, however, find this rare. Whilst I may have different emphasis to auditors over opinions I have often used my strategic and cross-cutting view to argue back to the auditor why my view is correct.

Now this process can sometimes bruise the auditor, they feel that their work has been rejected or that their opinion is not valued. Far from it though in my view. It comes back to the epistemological and ontological assumptions I mentioned a few posts ago. In other words I see audit in a realist social science setting. Thus there is, in my view, objective knowledge, but that this knowledge can be seen differently by different people. It is perfectly legitimate, therefore, for different people to have different views of the same ‘facts’.

How can I as a CAE, over-stamp an auditor’s opinion then? First I would seek to ensure that the auditor had triangulated the opinion against appropriate and sufficient numbers of others to ensure it bore scrutiny. Second I would seek to ensure that the expression of the opinion was consistent with the audit department’s stated reporting methodology and risk-based calibration. Third I would seek to ensure that I triangulated the opinion against my own knowledge and experience, which as a CAE would include strategic organisational awareness and knowledge.

The CAE is then primus inter pares in terms of their opinion. Indeed I think this is so in all matters for a CAE within an audit department. Opinions – how do you form yours?