Discussant's Response to "The Auditor's Role:
The Philosophy and Psychology of Independence
J. Donald Warren, Jr.
Coopers & Lybrand
After reading Professor Gaa's paper for the third time, I continued to strug-gle
with the notions presented:
• The role of the auditor in society and his or her social contract to
• The necessity for the auditor to have an independent state of mind in
fulfilling his or her responsibility to society.
• The relationship of moral "expertise" to the auditor's social contract
• The auditor's education and training and their impact on the interpreta-tion
of ethical dilemmas.
• The multiplicity of rules imposed upon the auditor and the resulting
barriers in assisting an auditor in arriving at "subjective" judgments in
The conclusions reached in Professor Gaa's paper lend themselves—as rec-ognized
by the professor—to additional research on "moral expertise", which
may result in a change in the accounting curricula. One observation in the paper
that "academic research in the ethics of the public accounting profession hardly
exists" certainly verbalizes the obvious. The public accounting profession has
dealt with the subject of ethics as it has other issues facing the profession: when
faced with an issue in an area, the accounting profession has a history of being
reactive. In other words, the profession reacts by issuing detailed rules, particu-larly
in the ethics area.
An Accountant as a Technician
In addressing Professor Gaa's paper, I believe it would be beneficial to
establish a framework of one possible view of an "accountant". I will use the
term "accountant" to represent a member in public accounting and frequently
referred to as an "auditor." The view presented is not intended to be all-inclusive,
but only to provide some perspective of an accountant's background
which may lend itself to some of the observations made by Professor Gaa, par-ticularly
in the "Moral Expertise" section of the paper.
The accountant by nature is a technician and deals with a level of preciseness
not generally found in other professions—the double entry system for book-keeping
and financial statements that balance and articulate. The accountant's