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Auditors Need to be Better Trained Than Auditees

29. Juni 2015

The Austrian Court of Audit President, Dr. Josef Moser, talks about the advantages of the public auditing MBA program for auditors of public organizations and auditors of the "Big four" - Deloitte, Ernst & Young, PwC and KPMG.

Being equipped with state-of-the-art knowledge and the latest tools and skills is one of the most important prerequisites for auditors to be able to cope with the challenges facing them in their day-to-day work. This also applies to the Austrian Court of Audit (ACA), whose employees are its biggest asset. Therefore, ACA president Dr. Josef Moser and the WU Executive Academy initiated the Professional MBA Public Auditing in 2006. The program, which is the only one of its kind in Europe, provides public auditors with comprehensive training at university level.

In the following interview, ACA president Moser discusses the substantial benefits that ACA employees can derive from the Professional MBA Public Auditing with the program's academic director, Prof. Klaus Gugler, and explains why it is an excellent training opportunity also, and especially, for auditors from other public bodies and private service providers such as the "Big Four"—Deloitte, Ernst & Young, PwC and KPMG

Mr. President, almost 10 years ago, you initiated the Professional MBA Public Auditing in collaboration with the WU Executive Academy. Why did you want the ACA's audit experts to do even more in-depth training?

President Moser: It is thanks to our employees that we have got where we are today; our employees are our biggest asset. Their expertise and their commitment are cornerstones of the ACA's performance. Hence, one of our top priorities in the process of selecting our auditors is to ensure that they have the necessary qualifications. However, as a result of both globalization and advances in science, research and business, auditors are constantly faced with new challenges and issues—for instance as far as adequate auditing methods, standards and procedures are concerned. Against this backdrop, it is vitally important to provide them with systematic training and to exchange knowledge and experience with other institutions.

In what ways do your auditors benefit from this training? What are the daily challenges that they can respond to more effectively?

President Moser: Most of our auditors are qualified lawyers, economists or engineers who completed thorough training at university level and acquired several years of work experience before joining the ACA. The Professional MBA Public Auditing provides them with an opportunity not only to update and deepen their understanding of business and law but also to gain comprehensive expert knowledge in the fields of finance, accounting, economics and public law. In terms of content, the program places special emphasis on those aspects that are of practical relevance in the context of audits. As a result, this in-depth training that is based on a solid academic foundation helps auditors address current issues they are faced with in their day-to-day work.

Mr. President, the Professional MBA Public Auditing is attended not only by ACA employees but also by other auditors. What benefits does this bring for students?

President Moser: Ensuring that the program is also open to external auditors has always been one of my top priorities because it allows us to learn from each other, to look beyond our own institutions and to get valuable input regarding best practice examples. This exchange of knowledge and experience is highly beneficial for ACA employees and external auditors alike

Prof. Gugler, you are the program's academic director. What target groups, apart from ACA employees, does the Professional MBA Public Auditing address in particular?

Prof. Gugler: Basically, it is designed for public and internal auditors at all levels, e.g. regional courts of audit, supervisory bodies in big cities and municipalities as well as other public institutions (such as the OeNB). Moreover, auditors from private institutions that may be given the job of examining public management, i.e. the Big Four, will find the program an excellent opportunity to develop their knowledge and skills.

Why?

Prof. Gugler: We help our students develop a thorough understanding of public auditing. Training, not only in this field, is becoming more and more important. The "Big Four", for instance, handle highly complex audit engagements, performing audits in different industries, contexts and countries. A training program that provides comprehensive business knowledge with a sound academic underpinning enables these experts to successfully deal with such an enormous challenge.

Prof. Gugler, as an MBA program, the Professional MBA Public Auditing by definition also covers general management topics. How significant are they for ACA auditors and non-ACA auditors?

Prof. Gugler: Very significant; after all, an MBA program is to teach students "the big picture", as it were. We live in a rapidly changing world in which audits are becoming increasingly complex and interdisciplinary. Hence, auditors with a background in law or engineering, for instance, need to be familiar with the latest relevant findings from the fields of business administration and economics, and must be able to apply them in the course of performing audits. And those who are economists by training need to have an understanding of fundamental legal and technical concepts.

Mr. President, you are not only the president of the Austrian Court of Audit but also the secretary general of INTOSAI, the International Organization of Supreme Audit Institutions. Does a similar training program exist at the European level, and if it does not, would it not be a good idea to start thinking about setting one up?

President Moser: In the course of our international work, we have seen that some universities such as Nanjing University in China offer basic training courses for aspiring public auditors. But, as far as I know, such a comprehensive university-based program as the Professional MBA Public Auditing exists neither in any other country nor at the European level where it would be particularly beneficial in the context of enhancing the long-term quality of external public audits of EU funds, especially as far as their efficient and effective use is concerned.

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