... is a question preoccupying far more often the client's mind rather than the one of the auditor's. The answer is somehow connected with, as it often appears to be, a slightly schizophrenic status of auditor's work: we might be wondering how come that the auditor checks out the client's statutory accounts and gets paid for criticizing their deficiencies every now and then.
Delving into the Code of Ethics for Professional Accountants issued by IFAC, which is binding for all auditors (i.e. not only the ones in the Czech Republic), might provide some insight – the Introduction to the document aptly states that "A distinguishing mark of the accountancy/auditing profession is its acceptance of the responsibility to act in the public interest".
But what is, we might ask further, the "public interest" we have just read of? Concentrating on this topic, Prof Dana Kovanicová, one of the Czech leading experts in the field of accountancy, has published an excellent article called Public Interest from the Perspective of Accounting and Auditing Profession, featured online in Czech Financial and Accounting Journal (the Czech version can be found on www.vse.cz/CFUC/93).
However our opinions on what the public interest may differ, the basic fact is evident: an auditor always works for at least TWO clients at the same time. The first one is the one the auditor makes a contract for the audit with and who represents the owners of the company whose final accounts are to be audited.
The other client is the members of general public; that is to say all those who the audited statutory accounts ought to be available to.
It is obvious that interests of these two "clients" might come into conflict at times; likewise, the universal tendency of the evolution of the auditing profession towards accenting the public interest is becoming more and more apparent, which is rather evidently pointed out in the text of the aforementioned article. Since the lack of attention to the public interest is seen as one of the underlying causes of the Great Recession, which world plunged into in 2007, supervisory bodies are being established all over the world as a means of public control mechanism. It is, however, rather a new trend and we can only speculate how much this strategy will be efficient.
I only wish we would never find ourselves in conflict with the interests of our clients.