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Auditor Client Relationship and Audit Quality: the Effects of Long-term Auditor Client Relationship on Audit Quality in SMES

Different scandals around the globe during the past, in specific during the last decade, have intrigued the stakeholders to question the roles of both auditors and management. But most of the fingers since then have been raised on the role of auditors, because it is the auditors who are entrusted with the responsibility to detect any errors or frauds in the financial reports of the client-firm. Apart from this, the long-term auditor client relationship has been the center of attention in most of the discussions and debates as well.

Numerous studies have been conducted by the academic researchers, financial and professional analysts, regulatory authorities and governing bodies, and in some cases by the auditors and the firms as well regarding the effects of long-term auditor-client relationship on audit quality, equity risk premium, financial reports quality, audit pricing etc. These studies provide us with different results, both with the positive and negative associations and effects of long-term auditor-client relationship on the basis of different factors and contexts.

For long, auditing has been discussed in different studies and research areas but mostly in association with publicly listed companies. Less attention has been paid to the relationship of auditors and clients as far as clients in SMEs are concerned. In any country around the globe, SMEs are of major contribution in terms of backing the economy, giving it both the boost and the stability, as they collectively form the major chunk of the economy.

If we specify our study to the SMEs in Sweden, then 99% of the enterprises in Sweden represent the SME sector; in addition they employ around 60% of the manpower. Based on these facts, and due to less attention given to auditor-client relationship in terms of SMEs, instead of; we have directed our concerns towards the study of effects of auditor-client relationship on audit quality in SMEs in this particular research study.

In this study, we have opted for qualitative research with semi-structured interviews to be used as the tool for data collection. Interviews were conducted with two different groups of interviewees, one group representing the auditors and the other group representing the client-firms (SMEs). A total of seven interviews were conducted in order to strengthen and validate the results for our research question. Due to the limitations of this study, mostly in terms of cost and time, samples were selected from Umeå, Sweden.

The data interview structure, data analysis and discussion, and conclusions were all made based on existing theories summarized in the theoretical review of this study. The results of this study suggests that (1) long-term audit tenure is beneficial for the audit quality if certain risk factors like risk of auditor independence and risk of developing complacency are controlled; and (2) factors such as NAS, industry specialization, knowledge and experience of the auditor, internal control in the client-firm, professional ethics, proper audit plan, providence of unbiased information by the client, and appointment of the auditor by the client-firm itself enhances the audit quality.
Source: Umeå University
Authors: Aamir, Suhaib | Farooq, Umar

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