Whistle-blowing by external auditors: Seeking legitimacy forthe South African Audit Profession?
ABSTRACT tAuditing is often cited as playing an important role in managing agency-related costs and,accordingly, being integral to the sound functioning of capital markets. There may, how-ever, be more to the attest function than a technical rational practice. By virtue of relyingheavily on claims to technical expertise, professionalism, prudential judgement and pub-lic confidence, auditing is both a source of legitimacy for organisations and, paradoxically,dependent on claims to legitimacy for its continued existence. From this perspective, recentregulatory developments, purportedly enacted to increase arms-length control over theprofession, may not only be about improving perceived audit quality and practice but alsoabout ensuring continued faith in the well-established ‘rituals’ of the assurance function. Areporting duty imposed on South African external auditors, akin to whistle-blowing, is usedas a case study to explore this perspective. In doing so, this paper contributes to the scantbody of interpretive research on auditing, simultaneously offering one of the first insightsinto auditing regulation from an African perspective