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Auditor of professional scepticism: a qualitative exploration of its development and operation in the United Kingdom

Considine, Brett (2018) Auditor of professional scepticism: a qualitative exploration of its development and operation in the United Kingdom. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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This thesis explores auditor professional scepticism and answers three key question, (1) the influences that shaped the current understanding of professional scepticism in the UK, (2) the problems and challenges in making professional scepticism auditable, and (3) how artefacts are used to construct and capture the operation of professional scepticism in audit engagements. these questions are addressed using archival methods, interviews, and through rare access to an audit form for ethnographic interviews, focus groups, and participant observation. This affords a 'back stage' understanding of professional scepticism, highlighting audit's social nature and the impact this has on scepticism's operation and evidencing. A genealogical analysis first argues that the rise of attention to professional scepticism in the UK is the result of changes in the regulatory structure, ongoing corporate crises, and an effort to re-individualise the auditor. Ideas of professional scepticism changed over time, from being 'healthy' to something that is 'professional', with this mapping to changes in the emphasis on fraud. Auditees came to be seen as clients, magnifying tensions between trust and doubt. It took a reset of regulatory setting to re-individualise the audit and bring the attention back to auditor professional scepticism. This sets the scene for regulatory attention on scepticism. Regulators have increasingly noted an absence of scepticism in inspected engagements. This raises the question of the auditbaility of scepticism. It is argued that the challenges in auditing scepticism come from a broad conception of what it is and what it 'looks like'. Issues also arise with auditability being applied to audit, as audit is effectively turn upon itself. The gaps between being auditable and making things auditbale become apparent as a result, with a resultant paradox of evidence arising. The third argument is presented using rare audit firm access to position scepticism as a jointly-constituted product of both social and material conditions. A sociomaterial view allows for the social conditions and the material artefacts and the affordances to be viewed as co-creators of professional scepticism, suggestion a distributed location of scepticism and challenging traditional structure-judgement divides. this chapter also links in to the concerns about auditablity as it shows how the artefacts most linked to the source of professional scepticism are the ones least likely to be preserved, despite their role as co-constitutor.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2018 Brett Considine
Library of Congress subject classification: H Social Sciences > HG Finance
Sets: Departments > Accounting
Supervisor: Mennicken, Andrea

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