Discussant's Response to
The Case for the Unstructured Audit Approach
Carl S. Warren
University of Georgia, Athens
I would like to begin by making a few general comments concerning Jerry's paper. I found the paper somewhat unstructured, which supports the use of the title, and I found no new quantitative evidence in the paper supporting the unstructured approach, although the paper does cite support from the Hylas-Ashton study. Interestingly, however, this study was based upon the practice of Peat, Marwick, Mitchell & Co., a firm which most would classify as highly structured.
I plan to structure the remainder of my comments in three main areas: (1) areas of agreement, (2) points of concern, and (3) questions in need of further elaboration.
Areas of Agreement
Jerry makes several statements in the paper which I would defy anyone to disagree with. For example, no one could possibly argue with the following points:
Audit firms should perform effective, efficient audits.
Auditors need to integrate knowledge obtained throughout the audit process.
However, such statements add little to either the academic or practitioner literature and provide no new insights.
Points of Concern
My primary point of concern is that Jerry has set up a straw man (or straw person if you wish) which he easily attacks and dismisses as an inappropriate audit approach. This straw man is, of course, the structured audit approach. For example, Jerry suggests that a structured approach is likely to involve a series of seven policies*. However, few practitioners or academicians would endorse any of these policies. Consequently, it is not surprising that Jerry arrives at the conclusion that the structured approach is an inappropriate audit approach. To illustrate, I have briefly analyzed each of these policies below:
1. All potential new clients would be investigated to the same extent.
* Jerry indicates that the seven policies used to define a structured audit approach were adapted
from the Cushing and Loebbecke study on audit methodologies. The final version of this study was
unavailable as of the symposium date. Irrespective of their source, the point remains that the
seven policies are so restrictive as to be meaningless in comparing a structured approach with an