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Keywords:

  • Ethical dilemmas;
  • external audit;
  • internal audit;
  • loyalty;
  • professional ethics;
  • whistleblowing

Auditors are being depicted as whistleblowers, a phenomenon which, given negative social attitudes to whistleblowers and informers more generally, can be harmful to the profession and individual practitioners. A recently published general-purpose definition of whistleblowing is applied to the audit function, considering internal and external auditing separately. The definition is briefly described. It depicts whistleblowing as a disclosure which expresses accusation and dissent; and entails an ethical dilemma of divided loyalty, the origins of which lie in a prima facie duty to respect an organisations proprietary rights over its information. The case argued here is that internal audit disclosures and those arising from the dominant external statutory audit do not qualify as whistleblowing as defined.

Whistleblowing is also examined as an audit metaphor but is discarded as unsuitable mainly on grounds of ambiguity.