GAO-03-673G Government Auditing Standards > Chapter 3 General Standards > Professional Judgment
3.34 This standard requires auditors to exercise reasonable care and diligence and to observe the principles of serving the public interest and maintaining the highest degree of integrity, objectivity, and independence in applying professional judgment to all aspects of their work. This standard also imposes a responsibility upon each auditor performing work under GAGAS to observe GAGAS. If auditors state they are performing their work in accordance with GAGAS, they should justify any departures from GAGAS.
3.35 Auditors should use professional judgment in determining the type of assignment to be performed and the standards that apply to the work; defining the scope of work; selecting the methodology; determining the type and amount of evidence to be gathered; and choosing the tests and procedures for their work. Professional judgment also should be applied in performing the tests and procedures and in evaluating and reporting the results of the work.
3.36 Professional judgment requires auditors to exercise professional skepticism, which is an attitude that includes a questioning mind and a critical assessment of evidence. Auditors use the knowledge, skills, and experience called for by their profession to diligently perform, in good faith and with integrity, the gathering of evidence and the objective evaluation of the sufficiency, competency, and relevancy of evidence. Since evidence is gathered and evaluated throughout the assignment, professional skepticism should be exercised throughout the assignment.
3.37 Auditors neither assume that management is dishonest nor assume unquestioned honesty. In exercising professional skepticism, auditors should not be satisfied with less than persuasive evidence because of a belief that management is honest.
3.38 The exercise of professional judgment allows auditors to obtain reasonable assurance that material misstatements or significant inaccuracies in data will likely be detected if they exist. Absolute assurance is not attainable because of the nature of evidence and the characteristics of fraud. Therefore, an audit or attestation engagement conducted in accordance with GAGAS may not detect a material misstatement or significant inaccuracy, whether from error or fraud, illegal acts, or violations of provisions of contracts or grant agreements. Accordingly, while this standard places responsibility on each auditor and audit organization to exercise professional judgment in planning and performing an assignment, it does not imply unlimited responsibility, nor does it imply infallibility on the part of either the individual auditor or the audit organization.