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5387348 - European Accounting Review 1992 1 303-331 Beyond...

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European Accounting Review 1992, 1, 303-331 Beyond the audit expectations gap Learning from the experiences of Britain and Spain Maria Antonia Garcia-Benau and Christopher Humphrey University of Valencia and University of Manchester ABSTRACT In seeking to encourage a broader, European dimension to research on auditing and audit expectations, this paper examines the recent history of auditing and its regulation in Spain within the context of international developments in the accounting profession. The more expansive role being assigned to the audit function in Spain following the implementation of the Fourth and Eighth Euro- pean Company Law Directives is generally viewed by Spanish writers as a progressive step, with largely positive effects. Such views stand in some contrast to the history of auditing in Britain, where the prevalence of an 'audit expec- tations gap' suggests a rather more problematic state of affairs. In exploring both the Spanish context and the nature of the audit expectations gap in Britain, however, the paper reveals a common underlying belief in the potential of auditing. Through this comparative analysis, and by drawing on recent audit research challenging certain long-held assumptions about auditing, a number of questions are asked of the current form and status of auditing and auditing expectations in Britain and Spain. In so doing, the paper raises issues that go beyond the current confines of the audit expectations gap debate, stressing, in particular, the need for greater consideration to be given, through less Anglo- centric analyses, to the varying nature and capabilities of European audit practice. d'! In Spanish, the expression 'ojaW (the English translation being 'if only it were so') is embodied with heartfelt emotion, as are so many words and phrases in a language known for its expressive capacities. Talk of desire and emotion, though, is not the usual precursor to a discussion on the activity of auditing. Rather, it is words such as boring, mundane or repetitive that traditionally have tripped most easily off the tongue. However, one area where a considerable degree of emotion and apparent anguish has been expressed in relation to the auditing activity has been with regard to the existence of an 'auditing expectations gap' (a phrase generally used to depict a sentiment that auditors are performing in a Address for correspondence C. Humphrey, Dept of Accounting and Finance, University of Manchester, Man- chester M13 9PL, UK.
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304 The European Accounting Review manner at odds with the expectations of those for whose benefit audits are being performed). In Britain, North America and Australasia, a variety of investigations by professional accountancy firms and organizations, governmental committees and academics have been undertaken on this issue, examining among other things the perceived performance, responsi- bilities and duties of auditors, the structure and regulation of the audit services market and the possibilities for reform (for summaries, see Humphrey, 1991; Humphrey et al., 1992a).
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