An experienced auditor's view on independence
This morning, I wrote to the GAO and asked them when they would be publishing the proposed revision to the Yellow Book. Michael Hrapsky (the GAO answer man) thought they'd have something out by the end of August. I expect one of the major changes to surround independence. The GAO has been playing with that concept throughout this decade and I hope they can be clear about it this go round.
I published an article on peer review last week and heard back from a 65 year old government auditor. I respect his opinion and this is what he had to say about independence - although he won't let me share his name with you... I'll share what he said:
"Being impartial, objective and fair are absolutes. Being independent is relative. In reality, no auditor is totally independent. We all are hired by, work for, paid by, and can be fired by someone. I have encountered auditors who have a maximum of independence (e.g., GAO staff) who did not remain impartial, and I have encountered auditors with little true independence who were fearlessly impartial and objective. The issue for me is not how independent I am, but how impartial, objective and fair I can be when auditing a particular subject and/or program."
From that viewpoint, no wonder the GAO is having a hard time with the issue of independence. If no one is independent - should that section of the Yellow Book be retitled 'objectivity.' What a sticky mess of a concept - a theoretical tar baby. When the GAO draws their new line in the sand - which historically has surpassed the AICPA's line in the sand - we can reassess our personal situation.