An Understanding of the Differences between Internal and External Auditors in Obtaining and Assessing Information about Internal Control Weaknesses
A critical role of the internal auditor is to design and monitor their organization's system of internal controls (COSO, 2004). In addition, they may be expected to objectively assess the quality of internal controls as professional auditors (Gray, 2004). External auditors have expressed concern that an internal auditor’s strong identity with their organization will bias any internal control assessments he or she makes of that organization (Schneider, 1984). Even so, accounting regulators believe internal auditors’ internal control assessments can be objective, and also maintain that having external auditors rely on these assessments should help to lower audit fees without jeopardizing audit quality (AICPA, 1990 - AS 5). Through two separate experiments, relying on social identity theory, social norms and the organizational silence literature in psychology, I examine whether the “employee” identity the internal auditor assumes as a member of the organization encourages other employees to share more information about internal control weaknesses with the internal auditor than the external auditor. In addition, I explore conditions under which the external auditor may be willing to rely on the internal auditor’s internal control assessment even if the internal auditor’s organizational identity is strong. Overall, this research will help external auditors, managers and regulators understand conditions under which the internal auditor can maintain their objectivity when performing an internal control assessment. Specifically, this research examines the potential importance of cueing internal auditors through the use of a strong code of ethics, such as the code of ethics enacted by the Institute of Internal Auditors, to the maintenance of the objectivity of all internal auditors. If the internal audit work is objective enough to be relied upon by the external auditor, the client can benefit from an audit of high quality while at the same time potentially lowering overall audit fees.