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Posted by on Jun 26, 2014

Bad Auditude: Are Auditors Destined to Become Cynics?

Grumpy-Cat-14Auditors: trained cynics or professional skeptics?

I’ve heard spouses of longtime auditors accuse their mates of becoming trained cynics.  You know how it goes: An auditor walks in the front door at home after a long day of rooting out fraud, waste, and mismanagement and immediately comments on the fact that the living room easy chair is out of place.  Well, it is!  And it shouldn’t be!  Management (i.e., the auditor’s spouse) needs to put it in its proper place.

Auditors who have been in the profession for a while should periodically take off their auditor lenses and assess how they see the agency/program/activity they evaluate daily.  Are they being balanced?  Objective? Fair?

The Yellow Book says that auditors should, “[c]onduct work with an attitude that is objective, fact-based, nonpartisan, and non-ideological with regard to audited entities and users of the auditors’ reports.”  Sounds easy, right?

One complaint heard from students in my auditing classes is that Government Accountability Office (GAO) and inspector general (IG) auditors often seem to be “looking for anything” that they can report as a finding.  While we know that we have specific audit objectives, we may not always make clear to auditees why it is important that we get the information we are requesting.  When we take the time to explain our information needs, it helps overcome the perception that we are on some sort of fishing expedition.

Our goal should always be to find that delicate balance between the desired professional skepticism about the evidence we are gathering and the determined approach to uncover reportable findings.  And at home, well, the misplaced chair is not really a reportable finding.

Have you ever found yourself on the line between cynicism and professional skepticism? Have you found ways to make sure you take off your auditor hat after you leave the office? Let us know in the comments section! And be sure to subscribe to this blog to keep up with our explorations of the Yellow Book standards and auditor challenges.

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