5 minute read 10 Oct 2019
Accountability - Conceptual illustration

Why every EY auditor is accountable for audit quality

By

Jay Paulson

EY Global Director of Quality Enablement

Experienced audit leader working closely with assurance professionals all over the world. Passionate about our commitment to high quality.

5 minute read 10 Oct 2019

The EY organization has embedded a culture of accountability and continuous improvement at all levels of the audit process.

With the accounting profession under more scrutiny than ever before, the EY organization has a duty, in serving the public interest, to help EY people take responsibility for performing quality work at all times.

To achieve and sustain this, the organization has embedded a culture of accountability at all levels of the audit process – a culture of doing the right thing – and accountability is one of the six pillars of the Sustainable Audit Quality (SAQ) program. Partners, senior managers, managers and the rest of their teams are expected to be driven by the EY quality agenda in everything they do.

The primary driver for the SAQ program is professional duty and pride; every auditor wants to deliver the highest quality. In addition, the focus on quality from various stakeholders is increasing. The systems of accountability established by the organization are helping to achieve this goal.

Measuring audit quality

While the measurement of audit quality is subjective to a certain extent, it can also be assessed using objective measures. These include inspection results – both from external and internal inspections – and the results of coaching activities, performance in terms of the timeliness of the audit, and the competencies and experience of EY audit teams.

The organization has embedded a culture of accountability at all levels of the audit process – a culture of doing the right thing.

In 2015, the International Forum of Independent Audit Regulators (IFIAR) issued a challenge to the global audit networks. It called on them to achieve a 25% reduction in inspection findings by 2019 for listed public interest entities. The EY organization achieved this goal in 2019.

Internal inspections are also performed on engagements each year. EY leadership conducts the annual Audit Quality Review (AQR) program as an important element of assessing the system of quality control at member firm, regional and global levels.

The AQR program includes detailed, risk-focused reviews covering a large sample of audit engagements to measure compliance with internal policies, procedures and methodology, and relevant standards and regulatory requirements. The results are summarized globally, along with any key areas where the results tell us that continued improvements are required. Results for the internal inspections in 2016, 2017 and 2018 are set out below.

Global audit quality report 2019 - inspection results

Reward and recognition

Quality is a significant factor in an Assurance leader’s overall evaluation. Partners’ performance is measured against criteria ranging from their compliance with Assurance and risk management policies to the ways in which they embrace SAQ initiatives and, ultimately, improve their engagements’ external inspection results.

The organization has also established an Accountability Framework for evaluating the leaders who are responsible for audit within the EY regions across the globe, so they can be assessed in a consistent manner and rewarded based on quality.

Inspection findings

25%

IFIAR challenged the global audit networks to achieve a 25% reduction in inspection findings by 2019 for listed public interest entities. The EY organization achieved this goal in 2019.

Remediation Task Forces

Achieving Sustainable Audit Quality requires a single-minded commitment to recognizing and addressing where performance needs to improve. This cannot happen unless gaps are uncovered and used to drive learning and improvement.

The organization’s inspection program is continually updated to the highest standards. Once inspections are completed, and root cause analysis has been undertaken, Remediation Task Forces are deployed to address issues that may remain. The task forces comprise teams of operations professionals, personnel from Professional Practice, and Assurance and quality leaders.

Global Audit Quality Committee

The EY Global Audit Quality Committee (GAQC) is an important element of the culture of continuous improvement, comprising senior leaders with extensive, diverse and relevant experience. It advises EY senior leadership on the many aspects of the organization’s business, operations, culture, talent strategy, governance and risk management that affect audit quality.

The GAQC was formed to develop and share innovative and game-changing ideas and approaches to providing high-quality audits. It is the central repository for learning and feedback, and serves as the basis for new audit quality indicators and other forms of quality monitoring that feed into the continuous improvement cycle.

Working with regulators

The role of auditors is to carry out high-quality work in accordance with the guidelines and standards set by independent regulators across the world. These bodies expect auditors to set new standards for quality and accountability.

The EY organization engages in an ongoing dialogue with IFIAR in which integrity and quality are at the top of the agenda. To facilitate this dialogue, the EY IFIAR subcommittee meets monthly, bringing together leading practices and current developments on audit quality from the 10 countries that are members of the IFIAR Global Audit Quality Working Group (Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, Singapore, Switzerland, the UK and the US) in a constructive and transparent way.

Continuous improvement is critical to the way the EY organization operates, and quality is the key to its culture.

Continuous improvement

The EY organization is committed to continuous improvement and provides an environment in which auditors can thrive. This means recruiting, developing and retaining the right people, embracing innovation, encouraging simplification and closely monitoring everything that audit teams do.

The aim is to exceed regulatory benchmarks and produce high-quality audits. Continuous improvement is critical to the way the EY organization operates, and quality is the key to its culture.

Summary

Jay Paulson, EY Global Quality Enablement Leader, discusses some of the systems and processes that are in place to help EY people take responsibility for carrying out high-quality work at all times. He discusses how the organization measures audit quality, the latest reward and recognition initiatives, the role of the Global Audit Quality Committee and the emphasis on a commitment to continuous improvement.

About this article

By

Jay Paulson

EY Global Director of Quality Enablement

Experienced audit leader working closely with assurance professionals all over the world. Passionate about our commitment to high quality.