The Effects of Politically Connected Audit Committees on Audit Fee and Audit Process: Evidence in Malaysia

UoM administered thesis: Phd

  • Authors:
  • Nurul Nazlia Jamil

Abstract

This study aims to contribute to an understanding of politically connected audit committees on audit fees and the audit process in an emerging market, using the case of Malaysia. Malaysia offers an interesting and important setting as Malaysian companies are highly concentrated and politically sensitive. In particular, the study seeks to: (i) examine the level of political connections represented in the audit committees associated with the level of audit fees incurred by Malaysian public listed companies; and (ii) examine whether politically connected audit committees have an impact on the audit process. Currently, there is scant evidence on the influence of politically connected audit committees on audit fees and the audit process. The study draws upon agency and resource dependence theories, which suggest that politically connected audit committees serve two important functions: monitoring on behalf of the shareholders, and providing resources to the companies. For the purpose of this study, a mixed method approach (archival data analysis and interviews) has been adopted. Four hypotheses are tested: (1) There is a positive relationship between the proportion of audit committee members who are senior government officers (SGO) and audit fees; (2) There is a positive relationship between the proportions of audit committee members who are politicians and audit fees; (3) There is a positive relationship between the percentage of government shares and audit fees; and (4) There is a positive relationship between audit committee characteristics (independence, size, meeting and financial expertise) and audit fees. In addition, the knowledge obtained from the interviews with Big 4 auditors and members of audit committees from the selected companies provide further insights on the influence of political connections on the audit process. The results of the study indicate that politically connected audit committees (identified by members who are either senior government officers or politicians) have a significant association with the incidence of higher audit fees. This suggests that politically connected audit committees are able to capitalise on their connections to influence companies and create direct demand for the auditors to increase their audit effort, as measured by audit fees. Contrary to expectations, this study did not find a significant relationship between government shares and audit fees. This result may be explained by the fact that government shares are managed by a variety of institutions on behalf of the government, and differences in the objectives and characteristics of the institutions that administer the shares can weaken the demand for higher efforts from auditors. An in-depth analysis of the interviews further reveals that political connections do affect the audit process. It appears that the existence of political connections leads to an increase in audit work such in a variety of ways, such as auditor-client negotiations, private meetings with audit committees and re-engineering the scope and planning of the actual audit work. One of the issues that emerges from these findings is that companies highly value political connections to obtain external resources given the uncertainties in the business environment. Also, the findings highlight the need for stronger corporate governance to mitigate the higher inherent audit risks in politically connected companies.

Details

Original languageEnglish
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Supervisors/Advisors
Award date1 Aug 2017