The practice of appointing Chartered Accountants as joint auditors is quite widespread in big companies and corporations. Joint audit basically implies pooling together the resources and expertise of more than one firm of auditors to render an expert job in a given time period which may be difficult to accomplish acting individually. It essentially involves sharing of the total work. This is by itself a great advantage. In specific terms the advantages that flow may be the following:
- Sharing of expertise
- Advantage of mutual consultation
- Lower workload
- Better quality of performance
- Improved service to the client
- Displacement of the auditor of the company taken over in a take – over often obviated,
- In respect of multi-national companies, the work can be spread using the expertise of the local firms which are in a better position to deal with detailed work and the local laws and regulations.
- Lower staff development costs.
- Lower costs to carry out the work.
- A sense of healthy competition towards a better performance.
The general disadvantages may be the following:
- The fees being shared.
- Psychological problem where firms of different standing are associated in the joint audit.
- General superiority complexes of some auditors.
- Problems of co-ordination of the work.
- Areas of work of common concern being neglected.
- Uncertainty about the liability for the work done.
With a view to providing a clear idea of the professional responsibility undertaken by the joint auditors, the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India had issued a statement on the Responsibility of Joint Auditors which now stands withdrawn with the issuance of AAS 12, “Responsibility of Joint Auditors” w.e.f. April, 1996. It requires that where joint auditors are appointed, they should, by mutual discussion, divide the audit work among themselves. The division of work would usually be in terms of audit of identifiable units or specified areas. In some cases, due to the nature of the business of the entity under audit, such a division of work may not be possible. In such situations, the division of work may be with reference to items of assets or liabilities or income or expenditure or with reference to periods of time. Certain areas of work, owing to their importance or owing to the nature of the work involved, would often not be divided and would be covered by all the joint auditors. Further, it states that in respect of audit work divided among the joint auditors, each joint auditor is responsible only for the work allocated to him, whether or not he has prepared a separate report on the work performed by him. On the other hand, all the joint auditors are jointly and severally responsible –
- in respect of the audit work which is not divided among the joint auditors and is carried out by all of them;
- in respect of decisions taken by all the joint auditors concerning the nature, timing or extent of the audit procedures to be performed by any of the joint auditors. It may, however, be clarified that all the joint auditors are responsible only in respect of the appropriateness of the decisions concerning the nature, timing or extent of the audit procedures agreed upon among them; proper execution of these audit procedures is the separate and specific responsibility of the joint auditor concerned;
- in respect of matters which are brought to the notice of the joint auditors by any one of them and on which there is an agreement among the joint auditors;
- for examining that the financial statements of the entity comply with the disclosure requirements of the relevant statute; and
- for ensuring that the audit report complies with the requirements of the relevant statute.
If any matters of the nature referred to in paragraph 4 above are brought to the attention of the entity or other joint auditors by an auditor after the audit report has been submitted, the other joint auditors would not be responsible for those matters.