This paper aims to discuss whether it is just to involve or blame the auditors for companies’ failures or bankruptcies or even fraudulent activities. Are auditors really part of the blame-game or is the public just reacting on what they perceive as the auditor’s failure to see and to report these bankruptcies and fraudulent activities’ Is there really a gap in what the public expects auditors to do and to report and what the auditors are really tasked to do’
According to Robert K. Elliot (1998), the purpose of the audit is to provide assurance that the investors and the stakeholders can rely on the information presented by management in the company’s financial statements and that they are not taking on undue financial risk when they invest in such a company. The auditors’ report, the ultimate output of the external auditor, is meant to communicate the various claims of the auditors. These claims are: that the auditors have complied with the required auditing standards, that they are independent of the company they are auditing and that they are stating that the balances of the company (as presented in the accompanying financial statements) are free from material misstatements and are thus, reliable to the outside readers and users.
The website, www.abrema.net, defined expectations gap in auditing as "the gap between the auditors’ actual standard of performance and the various public expectations of auditors’ performance (as opposed to their required standard of performance)". The same website enumerated the various expectations of the public. These expectations include (but are not limited to the following): (1) that the auditors should have "prime responsibility for the financial statements" that they audited. (2) that auditors ‘certify’ the financial statements. (3) that when auditors provide a clean opinion, this means that the financial figures are accurate and free from error. (4) that auditors "should give early warning about the possibility of business failure. and (5) that auditors are "supposed to detect fraud".
Another definition, according to Stanley Martens, is that this gap is "the difference between (1) what the public and other financial statement users perceive auditors’ responsibilities to be and (2) what auditors believe their responsibilities entail" (2001). Mr. Martens went on to state that this expectation gap has been in existence for several years (even decades) now and may have stemmed from previous "well-publicized hearings" in a previous fraud case.
Still another definition from Marianne Ojo is that is the expectations gap is "the difference between what users of financial statements, the general public perceive an audit to be and what the audit profession claim is expected of them in conducting an audit" (2006). In fact, there is also a distinction between the expectations of the audit profession of an external audit and the perception of the external auditor. Thus, even within the accounting profession, such an expectation gap exists.
Components of Expectation Gap
Www.abrema.net further divides expectations gap into the “requirements gap”, where there is a difference between the actual performance of the auditor and what is required by the “current standards of the society” and the “feasibility gap”, is the difference between “society’s required standard of performance and various public expectations”.