The position of an internal audit function (IAF) as a ‘servant of two masters’ (i.e., management and the audit committee) may lead to a conflict of priorities. In this setting, the tone at the top set by the Chief Audit Executive (CAE) plays a critical role in balancing the potentially competing priorities of the ‘two masters’. We test two hypotheses in a mixed experimental design with the communicated preferences of the CAE to subordinates (cost reduction vs. effectiveness of internal controls) as a between-subjects factor, and levels of ambiguity (low, medium, high) manipulated within-subjects. Findings suggest that the emphasis in the CAE's message can influence internal auditors' judgments, and such influence is more pronounced when task ambiguity is high, resulting in the elimination of a significantly greater number of internal controls and the design of less effective processes. We discuss implications of our results for modern IAFs and the role of the CAE.
Austrian Classification of Fields of Science and Technology (ÖFOS)
- 502033 Accounting
- 502044 Business management