AN industry-backed investigation is being carried out into the work of auditors.

The project is being commissioned by the Financial Reporting Council (FRC) and the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland (ICAS).

Auditors have faced criticism over their role in the financial crisis and whether they should have signed off on the accounts of banks which were in precarious financial positions.

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The study, which is to run for a year, will look at the skills needed to "perform high-quality public interest" audits and whether there is a need for a fundamental reassessment of what is required to be an auditor.

Richard Fleck, chairman of the FRC conduct committee, said: "As corporate reporting changes to better integrate narrative and financial reporting, so too may the nature of audit, including the need for more involvement by the auditor in the narrative elements of the annual report. Against this backdrop, it is also likely that the attributes, competencies, professional skills and qualities required of auditors will need to evolve in order to keep pace with the needs and expectations of stakeholders."

Allister Wilson, convener of the ICAS research committee, said: "There needs to be greater understanding and clarity around the skills and competencies an auditor needs to meet public expectations."