Date posted: 20/09/2019 3 min read

Are multidisciplinary firms good for audit quality?

New report examines the relationship between multidisciplinary firms and audit quality.

In Brief

  • A review of existing research and other related literature reveals the multidisciplinary model has a positive impact on audit quality
  • A ban on non-audit services to audit clients, or the advent of audit-only firms, could have a detrimental effect on audit quality
  • Extensive rules have developed over the past two decades that serve to mitigate risks to independence

There is a positive correlation between audit quality and firms that offer both audit and non-audit services. This is a key finding of Audit quality in a multidisciplinary firm: What the evidence shows, a report co-authored by Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand (CA ANZ), the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC), and the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA).

The report looks at evidence from academic literature, policy and expert views on the multidisciplinary model and its relationship to audit quality, as well as how the current regulatory frameworks internationally manage the risks.

"Through the publication of this report, we hope to contribute to the debate on multidisciplinary firms by informing public opinion and encouraging a conversation grounded on the facts."

Talent

Audits are becoming increasingly complex, so it is important firms have access to people with appropriate experience and expertise to provide the public goods of assurance and integrity. A multidisciplinary approach that draws on deep methodology and assurance frameworks, combined with specialist and subject matter expertise, can meet this need.

Providing wider services beyond audit is a valuable attraction for specialist talent and enables firms to develop teams with the skills and expertise needed for high-quality audits. The multidisciplinary model is one of the best mechanisms to develop the skills, expertise and consistency needed for quality audits.

Independence

The extent to which auditors provide non-audit services to their audit clients continues to be scrutinised amid concerns that it compromises auditor independence. However, the proportion of fees from non-audit services provided to audit clients is relatively small and is not on the rise. In part, this is due to the increasing rules in place that limit the non-audit services that can be provided to audit clients.

These rules to mitigate risks to independence are once again under review for further enhancement. However, uncertainty remains as to whether steps to prevent the provision of any non-audit services to audit clients, in the long run, will benefit high-quality audits, especially those of large, complex public interest entities. The evidence cited in this paper cautions against sweeping regulatory changes that could have unintended consequences on audit quality.

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