Auditing is an important activity in today’s society and is characterised by several dilemmas. The assumption underlying this thesis is that auditing is influenced in prac-tice by the thought patterns of auditors. These patterns are shaped in an environment that is both regulated and self-regulated. The purpose of the thesis is to describe, analyse and compare the thought patterns of Swedish auditors and important stake-holders with regard to the way in which auditors audit information provided by listed companies and how they make statements about this information. The purpose is also to make some suggestions about how the auditing activity can be modified in order to reduce conflicting interests. The methodological approach combines the use of the repertory grid technique and open-ended interview questions. Interviews were carried out with 82 auditors and 73 stakeholders. To validate the findings, four focus groups, consisting of auditors, investors and creditors, were consulted.
The findings indicate that auditors devote a relatively large amount of time and considerable effort to objects that can be verified satisfactorily, but not to objects that they perceive as being of primary importance to investors and creditors. A similar gap is found in the thought patterns of investors and creditors. Moreover, several expec-tation gaps are found, in particular regarding auditors’ statements. On the one hand, the auditors studied were reluctant to make statements about any other information than information obtained according to current practice; on the other hand, the inves-tors and creditors expressed a need for additional information about the outcome of the audit and the choice of auditing objects.
The concluding suggestions concern measures that can reduce the discrepancies identi-fied, including (i) the introduction of a mandatory primary audit and a market-oriented secondary audit, (ii) extended information about the outcome of the audit and the choice of auditing objects that will benefit the stakeholders, (iii) a somewhat less expo-sed position of the auditors, and (iv) the importance of a changed balance of power in the auditing arena and the need for an integrated and dynamic approach to auditing.
Keywords: auditing, accounting information, auditors, stakeholders, agency theory, thought patterns, expectation gap, repertory grid.