How to Ensure High-Quality Auditing: The FRC's Expectations

Oct 17, 2023

Auditing plays a pivotal role in maintaining trust and confidence in financial markets. Investors, regulators, and stakeholders rely on audited financial statements to make informed decisions about companies' financial health. 

The Financial Reporting Council (FRC) is the regulatory body responsible for setting auditing standards and ensuring the quality of audits conducted by registered audit firms. To uphold the integrity of the auditing profession, the FRC has established clear expectations for auditors. 

In this blog, we will delve into the FRC's expectations for high-quality auditing, exploring the fundamental principles, guidelines, and practices auditors should follow to meet these expectations effectively.

Understanding the Role of Auditing

Before diving into the FRC's expectations, it is essential to understand the fundamental role of auditing in the financial reporting ecosystem. Auditing is an independent and objective analysis of a company's financial statements and internal controls. 

The primary auditing provides reasonable assurance that the financial statements are free from misstatement, whether due to error or fraud, and to enhance the credibility and reliability of financial reporting. To achieve these objectives, auditors follow a set of standards and principles, many laid out by the FRC.

Adhering to Ethical Principles

The cornerstone of high-quality auditing is adherence to ethical principles and professional scepticism. Auditors must act with integrity, objectivity, and independence throughout the audit process. The FRC emphasises that auditors should maintain their independence from the entities they audit to ensure an unbiased assessment of financial statements. Freedom is about economic interests, personal relationships, and other factors that may compromise an auditor's objectivity.

Furthermore, professional scepticism is a vital component of ethical auditing. Auditors should approach their work with a questioning mindset and a healthy scepticism, actively seeking evidence and corroborating information to support their conclusions. The FRC encourages auditors to challenge management's assertions and assumptions, especially when red flags or inconsistencies are identified during the audit.

Competence and Professional Scepticism

Competence is another critical aspect of high-quality auditing. Auditors must possess the necessary skills, knowledge, and expertise to perform their roles effectively. The FRC expects audit firms to invest in continuous professional development for their staff, ensuring that auditors are up-to-date with evolving accounting and auditing standards.

In addition to competence, professional scepticism is a critical mindset that auditors must cultivate. Auditing standards require auditors to maintain a sceptical attitude throughout the audit process. This means not taking management's assertions at face value and actively seeking evidence to support their conclusions. Professional scepticism helps auditors identify potential misstatements or fraudulent activities that may go unnoticed.

Applying Risk-Based Auditing

The FRC encourages auditors to adopt a risk-based approach to auditing. Risk-based auditing involves assessing the risk of material misstatement in financial statements and focusing audit efforts on areas with the highest risk. This approach recognises that not all aspects of a company's financial statements are equally significant, and resources should be allocated accordingly.

Applying risk-based Auditing

To effectively apply risk-based auditing, auditors must:

  • Understand the Business: Auditors should gain a deep understanding of the audited entity's industry, operations, and financial reporting processes. This understanding helps auditors identify and assess risks specific to the business.
  • Assess Risk Factors: Auditors should assess various risk factors, including financial, operational, and regulatory risks. They must also consider the risk of fraud and management override of controls.
  • Plan the Audit: Based on the risk assessment, auditors should develop a comprehensive audit plan that outlines the scope, objectives, and procedures of the audit. This plan should focus on high-risk areas while ensuring coverage of all financial statement components.
  • Perform Procedures: Auditors should perform substantive procedures in areas with higher assessed risks. These procedures may include detailed testing, analytical methods, and substantive testing of account balances and transactions.
  • Document Findings: Thorough documentation of audit procedures and findings is essential. It provides a clear trail of the audit work and conclusions.
  • Evaluate Audit Evidence: Auditors should evaluate the sufficiency and appropriateness of audit evidence gathered. They must be prepared to modify their audit approach if new information or evidence comes to light during the audit.

Reporting and Transparency

One of the final stages of the audit process is reporting the results to stakeholders. The FRC places significant importance on the auditor's report, which should provide a clear and transparent view of the audit's findings and conclusions. The information should communicate whether the financial statements are free from material misstatement and highlight any significant issues or concerns identified during the audit.

High-quality Audit Report Elements

Transparency is crucial in the reporting process. Auditors should be open and honest about any challenges or limitations during the audit. If the auditor had to rely on management's representations or encountered obstacles that prevented a full assessment of specific areas, the report should disclose this. Key elements of a high-quality audit report include:

  • Unmodified Opinion: Ideally, the auditor's report should express an unmodified (or "clean") opinion, indicating that the financial statements provide a fair and accurate view.
  • Emphasis of Matter or Other Matter Paragraphs: If significant matters require attention, the auditor's report should emphasise points or other paragraphs to draw stakeholders' attention to these issues.
  • Going Concern Considerations: The report should address any concerns about the entity's ability to continue as a going concern, especially when there are doubts about its future viability.
  • Clear and Concise Language: The report should be written in clear, concise, and jargon-free language that stakeholders easily understand.
  • Responsibility Section: The report should clearly state management's and the auditor's responsibilities, helping stakeholders understand the division of roles and duties in the audit process.
  • Signature and Date: The report should be signed by the lead auditor and include the date of the report issuance.


High-quality auditing is essential for maintaining trust and confidence in financial markets. The FRC's expectations for auditors provide a clear roadmap to achieving this goal. By adhering to ethical principles, maintaining competence, applying risk-based auditing, and delivering transparent and informative audit reports, auditors can meet the FRC's expectations and contribute to the integrity of financial reporting. 

As auditors adapt to changing business environments and accounting standards, they must stay informed about the latest developments in auditing practices and regulations. By doing so, auditors can meet the FRC's expectations and enhance the quality and effectiveness of their audit services, ultimately benefiting the entire financial ecosystem and ensuring that stakeholders can make well-informed decisions based on reliable financial information.