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Over the last number of years whistleblowers have been gaining prominence. This paper investigates some of the factors that influence the propensity or willingness to blow the whistle among trainee auditors. Three categories of factors are examined: audit firm organisational structures, personal characteristics of whistleblowers and situational variables.
A survey of 240 final year students of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Ireland was undertaken. Trainee auditors (just about to sit their finals) were asked about their confidence in internal and external reporting structures in their firms. Using four scenarios, audit trainees were questioned on their willingness to challenge an audit partner’s inappropriate response to concerns raised during the audit. Finally, audit trainees were asked about the influence of legal protection on their likelihood of whistleblowing.
Results indicate that where firms have adequate formal structures for reporting wrongdoing, trainee auditors are more likely to report wrongdoing and have greater confidence that this will not adversely affect their careers. Training increases this confidence. Trainee auditors also express a willingness to challenge an audit partner’s unsatisfactory response to wrongdoing. Significant differences were found in attitudes depending on whether the reports of wrongdoing were internal or external. The willingness to report wrongdoing externally reduces for older (aged over 25) trainees.