Professional skepticism and its effect on the professional judgment of trainee accountants from the Durban and Midlands regions of KwaZulu-Natal.
Auditors are expected to exercise appropriate levels of professional scepticism when conducting audits in order to identify and evaluate circumstances that may cause suspicion about evidence obtained. Demonstrating professional scepticism will differ from auditor to auditor depending on a situation at hand and include amongst other things, a critical assessment of audit evidence, devoting special attention to inconsistencies and performing validations on evidence collected. There is no consensus amongst the stakeholders in the profession about how auditors develop professional scepticism and how it affects professional judgment. Different views are also held by about the nature of professional scepticism, whether it is a skill, state, a mindset or a trait as that is likely to affect how it may be developed or acquired. The study aimed to determine if education and training, professional experience and culture are factors that influence the development of professional scepticism by trainee accountants. The study also sought to investigate whether the professional scepticism level of trainee accountants affects their professional judgment. A quantitative study with a sample size of 200 trainee accountants serving SAICA TIPP articles was conducted. A stratified random sampling method was applied in determining the sample and 73 trainee accountants responded to the survey. An online questionnaire was administered to collect the research data. A completion rate of 67% and a response rate of 37% were obtained. The findings indicated that training and education and professional experience have an influence on the professional scepticism of trainee accountants. The findings also revealed that professional scepticism affects the professional judgment of trainee accountants. The results did not suggest that culture influences professional scepticism. It is recommended that Regulators facilitate dialogue with the stakeholders on the issue, included amongst the stakeholders should be academics in this discipline as they lay the foundation for a career in auditing in accounting graduates. It is also recommended that the SAICA Competency Framework include professional scepticism as one of the exit-level competencies after a training period. Academics are encouraged to work closely with audit firms and SAICA in curriculum development initiatives in order to ensure that curricula respond to requirements of the profession with regards to professional scepticism. The study was limited to two regions in KwaZulu-Natal, the Durban and Midlands regions. The study excluded trainee accountants in the TOPP training programme.