It revolved around the Audit Inspection Unit’s report published recently on
the state of audit quality in the UK.
This latest report focused on ‘other signifcant’ firms outside the Big Four
and largely concluded that the issues that they face are the self same issues
faced by the Big Four. But the report provoked anger by continuing to report
separately on the Big Four as if they were a group with a different nature to
other UK firms. A fact that seems contradicted by the conclusions that they all
face similar problems and difficulties.
So could examining the Big Four separately perpetuate a myth that the audit
quality of the largest firms is better than other UK auditors? Possibly, because
these distinctions often have disproportionately large consequences. If it does,
should we continue to call the largest firms the Big Four? As with the way the
AIU approached its examination by distinguishing two groups, the language we use
could enforce the idea that there is a difference between the quality of the
biggest auditors and that of the next tier.
But if not the Big Four, then what? But that’s the point, the minute you coin
a phrase it comes ready prepared with all manner of assumptions. The only way
around it is not to recognise the Big Four as a distinct group at all. But
there’s a problem here because, in so much as they are much larger, by some
considerable distance, they remain distinct.
So our debate has yet to reach a conclusion. But perhaps in the very act of
arguing the point we may have given away our own underlying, and yet still to be
articulated sympathies. Let us know your thoughts.
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