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The Impact of E-Commerce on the External Audit Process


Technology is here with us, it is here to stay, and therefore adopting technology has become a trend in many sectors of the economy. Despite the adoption of technology as a trend, it has proved to be the only way to survive in this competitive environment. Competition in all sectors of the economy has made adoption and use of technology a major feature. Technology has therefore been applied in marketing, processing, manufacturing, and other sectors of the economy. This report investigates the application of technology in commerce with e-commerce being the focus.

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The economy is never a complete field without buying and selling and in particular, the two activities form the main features of the economy. Buying and selling constitute the broad subject of commerce and in this case, buying and selling include buying and selling of goods and services. The internet has also become an important tool in business, especially the use of the World Wide Web. E-commerce refers to the trade carried out over the internet and especially on the World Wide Web. E-commerce is not only involved in the selling of goods and services but also deals with the entire marketing process. The marketing process includes sales promotion, selling, after-sales service, delivery, and payment (Anderson & Best 2004). Recently the volume of trade carried out electronically has grown tremendously due to the increased use of the internet and other world web-supported services.

External audit refers to audit services given to a firm by an independent accountant. The services include an evaluation and analysis of the firms accounting records to determine their credibility and accuracy. The external audit also seeks to establish whether the accounting records are complete and done on time. The audit process also seeks to establish whether a firm’s accounting records are by GAAP provisions. Finally, an external audit seeks to establish whether the accounts reports of a firm represent an accurate picture of an organization (Benbasat & Moore 1991).

E-commerce not only has an impact on trade and marketing but also on the audit process and therefore it has an impact on external audit. This paper presents a report on the impacts of e-commerce on the external audit process. The report examines whether the adoption of e-commerce has made the audit process easy. Secondly, the paper examines the security concern on the data obtained from e-commerce accounting records. Finally, the paper examines what is next after e-commerce whether we should go on and have an e-audit (Halper & Vasahelyi1991).


Impact on human involvement

Abu (2002) defines e-commerce as a trade whose information is carried through telephone lines, computerized networks, or other technical dependent means. Abu Fara goes on to add that e-commerce is not only a discipline but also a world of communication and therefore it has become an essential part of modern trade. From this definition, e-commerce eliminates or reduces human involvement in the trading process. It was found that reduced human interference implied reduced chances of errors and mistakes in accounting records. Reduced human interference also implies that the accounting records kept are free from personal exaggerations and therefore external auditors obtain credible information. Although human services are essential in commerce, human involvement in the process has been linked with the source and cause of errors that currently exist in the sector. Human beings are also fond of exaggerating an event or record of an event for their selfish gains. This exaggeration also applies in keeping account records since firms will include figures that do not reflect their business condition. It was found that most firms and organizations entered wrong information in account records mainly to protect the financial image of their business. Firms also exaggerated their accounts records to escape taxation (Jones & Xiao 2003).

The above are some of the main problems that were observed to result from man’s involvement in account record keeping. These problems not only stand at the business level but also spread to the operations of the business and finally into the audit process. With the increase in the application of e-commerce, things were found to be very different and the difference was felt in the audit process. As stated by Serafi (2005) e-commerce as a process involves the automation of business transactions using a computerized system. This statement implies that e-commerce enhances accuracy in account keeping through automation. Accurate account records are essential in the auditing process and therefore external auditors will prefer data from a reliable source. Data from electronic sources is more accurate than data obtained from manual records and therefore external auditors can use this data in their analysis process without the concern of credibility. Secondly, data obtained from e-commerce records were found to be free from exaggeration as compared to data from personal records and therefore auditors found it appropriate. From these observations, e-commerce was found to have a great impact on the accuracy of the auditor’s records (Liang, Lin & Wu 2001).

Impact on accuracy

The issue of accuracy is a two-sided issue and this was found to be a major issue with e-commerce. Accuracy not only comes from unavoidable human errors and mistakes but also from intentional manipulations of data. Data manipulations can be from within the firm or from an external source, they have great impacts on accounting records, and this extends to the audit process. Doing business online opens the door of a firm’s information to outsiders (Abu 2002). This statement implies that online business is subject to exploitation by a third party for his or her own selfish gains. The availability of business accounting information to the third party brings the issue of the accuracy of the information obtained from these records. From the analysis, it was found that most data suffered the violation through manipulation either from an internal party or from an external party. The study also shows that the manipulation of a company’s data by the two parties depends on their own interest in the information and the business. However; the studies showed that most manipulations were driven by selfish gains or from influence. Unlike manual records, electronic records are easy to access and sometimes easy to manipulate especially when the source is not secure or is public. Studies also showed that competitors of a firm would also be concerned with the manipulation of other firms’ records in order to fulfill their competence agenda. Such firms were found to either manipulate the data on their own or use the services of a person such as an employee working for the firm (Davidow & Malone 1992).

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The possibility of manipulation of accounting data has several impacts on the work of external auditors. To begin with, the auditors have to be more cautious about the data obtained from these records on issues concerning their credibility. The application of e-commerce has therefore made the work of external auditors more difficult since they have to evaluate the credibility of the data obtained from electronic accounts records (Botosan 1997). Availability of accounts records in electronic format makes them vulnerable to manipulations and therefore auditors have to take extra care when dealing with such records. Inaccuracy of e-data brings the issue of credibility that determines the legality of the audit process. The audit process is not only important to the business but also other parties concerned with the business such as the government, taxation authority, financial institutions, and the public. This implies that any audit report should correspond to legal standards and requirements. A report that corresponds to legal requirements is accurate and therefore data obtained from electronic sources is not appropriate for use by external auditors.

E-commerce considers the manipulation of data as a weakness and a risk and this extends to auditors and the audit process. As stated by Belkacem (2002), the audit process is a legal process, which implies that any legal process should abide by the law of a country. The statement also implies that an auditor is fully responsible under the law for any audit report or statement. The possibility of manipulation of electronic data especially by an external agent was found to have an impact on the legality of the audit process. This issue made the external auditor avoid the use of electronic data.

Manipulation of data stored in electronic format brings the issue of computer hacking and computer viruses, which are important in electronic commerce. In the modern world, there has been an increase in crime and this applies to the business world. The crime in the modern world has also evolved to soft crime and white color crime that characterized the past. This has extended to the business world and soft crime is rampant in the business world. This takes the form of computer hacking and the use of computer viruses to disrupt or distort an information system. The availability of hackers and computer viruses make risk to be the next impact of e-commerce on the audit process. The use of electronic marketing systems in a market or industry infested by hackers and computer viruses increases the risk in the audit process. Secondly, CD-ROMs and other storage devices such as tapes were found to be the main storage devices that are used in the storage of electronic data (Wigand, 1997). These storage mediums are reliable and efficient but they lack security and therefore they are not credible in the storage of sensitive data. Secondly, in these devices, it is impossible to store data with authentications such as signatures, seals, and other authentication. Lack of authentication in accounting data contributes to the audit risks and this makes the auditors be more cautious on the data presented to them.

Audit trail

The third impact of e-commerce on the audit process particularly the external audit process is the keeping of audit trail. The audit process is not only dependent on current documents and files but it is highly dependent on information about transactions carried out in the past. The process can therefore be said to depend heavily on history and therefore documents and records for past transactions are as important as documents for current transactions. The dependence on past records on the audit process raises the issues of records and record-keeping and the main question in the process is the reliability of the records kept. The safekeeping and time duration also come in as another important issue in record keeping (Manson, McCartney & Sheerer 1997). Thirdly, there is the issue of retrieval of the stored information and this determines how fast the transaction of information can be available to an auditor. The next issue that is of concern to the auditors is the ability to compare and contrast data obtained from records with data from current transaction records. The internal audits were concerned with the volume that could be handled by a single storage device such as a CD ROM or computer hard disk. Finally, the internal auditors were also concerned with the security of the stored data concerning how likely or easily the data can be manipulated or distorted (Johnston & Vitale, 1988)

Unlike traditional commerce where transactions are recorded manually on paper, e-commerce was found to have a big impact on the audit trail process. To begin with, e-commerce transaction data is stored electronically and therefore it can be easily retrieved by an auditor whenever needed. Secondly, electronic storage devices can store a large volume of data over a long period and therefore the external auditors have a variety of data to choose from. This makes the audit trail efficient and reliable since the external auditor can compare and contrast data with varying periods. The next issue that is of great importance to auditors in the audit trail process is their ability to compare the available data. This implies that the auditors prefer to analyze data that can be compared easily and accurately. E-commerce transaction data is stored in electronic format and unlike traditional data; electronic data can be easily analyzed and compared. The ability to analyze and compare data makes the audit process quick, reliable, and credible.

Secondly, the audit process depends heavily on the data analysis process and this implies that the auditors must analyze the available data before making their conclusion. Data analysis also implies that the external auditors have to analyze data from the past and the present records, which brings the issue of efficiency in the data analysis process. It was found that unlike data obtained from traditional records electronic data can be analyzed easily. To begin with, electronic data is stored in a way that can easily be converted from one format to another. Secondly, the auditors are exempted from the data entry process which is an equally demanding task. These are some of the benefits that auditors get from using data contained in electronic format. The most important advantage of electronic data in the audit process is the data analysis process. Electronic data can be entered easily into a computer and therefore the external auditor benefits from using a variety of data processing tools and software that are available today. The use of these data analysis tools makes the work of external auditors quick as well as accurate and therefore the audit process is efficient and reliable. Efficiency in data processing for external auditors contributes to the audit trail process by making it quicker and more efficient. This implies that the external auditors can carry out their duties efficiently and more accurately (Jones & Navin1995).

Thirdly, the comparison of data in the audit process requires that the data should be easily available to the auditors. Availability of data implies that data retrieval should be an easy and efficient process. Transaction data for traditional commerce is stored in papers that are kept in files and are not easily retrieved by an auditor. It was found that data stored in electronic format could be retrieved quickly, efficiently, and accurately. Most computerized systems have in-built search engines that enable the auditors to search and locate files within the computer or the device. Auditors can use the date or the title of the file to search data from files stored electronically and this has an impact on the audit process. Easy retrieval of data was found to assist auditors in keeping a trail of the audit process and records.

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The next issue that is of concern in the audit trail process is the issue of availability of data, which implies that the auditors require a variety of data concerning time and transactions. Unlike data obtained from traditional commerce, electronic data storage devices can handle large volumes of data from varying periods and sources. Availability of data from varying time intervals requires that the data storage devices should have a large capacity. Unlike in traditional commerce, transactions from e-commerce were found to have a large storage capacity. Unlike in traditional data storage, electronic devices such as CD ROMs, flash disks, and hard disks can store a large quantity of data efficiently. Large quantities of data provide the external auditor with enough information that is needed in the audit process. It was found that external auditors preferred working with electronic data as compared to traditional data. Secondly, data stored electronically could be safe and efficient for a long period as compared to the traditional paper and file storage system. It was also found that traditional data storage services could be damaged or interfered with easily as compared to electronic data. E-commerce, therefore, has an impact on the reliability of the external audit process (Lowe & Rockers 2000).

Audit legislation

The audit process is not only important to the business and the firm but also the authorities and other concerned parties and therefore an audit report is a legal document. The legality of the audit report implies that an auditor is fully responsible for the report under the law of the country and therefore it is important to prepare the report by legal provision. The factors that determine the credibility of an auditor’s report are based on a country’s provisions, and the data used to prepare the report. To begin with, the auditors are concerned with the method of data storage and the credibility of the data used in the process. This implies that auditors avoid using data from sources that can be tampered with easily or data that can be manipulated. In a situation where auditors use data that has been manipulated or tampered with, the audit report is not credible under the law and therefore the auditor can be held responsible for any inconvenience suffered from such reports. It was found that electronic data could easily be tampered with and therefore it makes the audit process based on electronic records not be fully reorganized under the law. Since the external audit is a legal process, a report that does not comply with the law is of no use and therefore the process requires improvements.

Secondly, the audit process requires the use of verified data and therefore there is the issue of signatures and other authentication tools. The traditional transaction records are on paper and therefore they heavily depend on signature and other authentication tools such as company seals to show authenticity. This however does not apply to the electronically stored documents since it is difficult to add signatures or seals to such documents. On the other hand, electronic signatures have been developed but they are not legally sufficient since they are not free from similarity. Electronic signatures were found to be easy to counterfeit and therefore the audit process becomes questionable. Since the audit, the process should be by the law the auditors were found to avoid using data that was not credible either from the source of the data or the compiler of the data. Electronic data storage and handling need to be improved to include efficient and credible means of authentication. This implies that there is a need to develop a credible authentication system. E-commerce, therefore, has an impact on the legality of the external audit process (Brynolfsson& Hitt 1996).

Impact of quality control

The audit process is not a constant but a continuous process and therefore any audit process is based on past processes. This implies that the audit process improves continuously depending on the processes carried out in the past and therefore the auditors should have knowledge of past audit reports. Developing an audit report from past reports implies that the auditor has to keep a trail of the past reports and records. The quality of the audit report is therefore closely connected to the ability to retrieve data and also the reliability of the data stored, which implies that the data storage device and methods should be credible. It was found that since e-commerce data is stored electronically it can be easily retrieved and reviewed to enable the auditors to keep a trail of the past audit reports. In addition to this, electronic data stored in computers can easily be compared using tools and software available in most computers. This ease in comparison of data enables the external auditors to improve the audit process based on the past audit process. The ability to compare past audit processes also enables the auditor to gain the necessary professional experience by avoiding past mistakes. The experience gained by the external editor from work done in the past improves the auditor as an individual and a professional. On the other hand data and audit reports obtained from traditional records and commence do not provide the external auditor with a good reference for comparison. It was found that auditors who used data from electronic records in their audit process have more refined and presentable work as compared to their counterparts who used data from other traditional records. It was also evident that auditors who used data from e-commerce were better in their audit work as compared to auditors who used data from other traditional sources. Data obtained from e-commerce transaction records could be easily analyzed and reviewed by the auditor. Therefore, it is possible to avoid mistakes committed in the past audit process. Avoiding mistakes committed in the past audit process was found to have an impact on the quality of the audit report and the auditor as a professional. The use of e-commerce data and data analysis techniques requires the auditors to apply and use computers and other telecommunication devices and techniques. Continued application of these techniques by the auditors enables them to develop their computer skills that they can apply in another field. Data obtained from e-commerce records are free from errors and therefore the audit report developed from such data is of high quality and standards. It was found that auditors who continuously used data from e-commerce transactions produced high-quality audit reports and they had highly developed audit skills as compared to those who used data from traditional records and transactions.

The impact of audit infrastructure

E-commerce is highly dependent on electronic infrastructure for its existence and operation. For a smooth running of e-commerce, a business requires to have networked computers as well as trained personnel and staff. E-commerce also requires the application of several software and application and this requires that a firm should have a functioning ICT system. This implies that an external auditor has to be conversant with such infrastructure and have some of the infrastructures. This also implies that the audit process requires infrastructure that corresponds to the infrastructure applied in e-commerce. The requirement of these infrastructures also requires that the auditors should have the ability to use them, which implies that auditors relying on e-commerce transaction records should be able to use the necessary infrastructures.

The use of electronic infrastructure also requires that they are safe implying that the infrastructure should store electronic data safely for the required time duration. This indicates that auditors will consider data stored in high-quality devices that can hold a large volume of data safely. External auditors who relied on data from e-commerce on their work were found to have a wide knowledge of computation and networking infrastructure. In addition, auditors using data from e-commerce transactions were found to be dependent on technology in their work as compared to those who applied data from traditional transaction records. Computerization of the audit process makes the process efficient and reliable and the auditors who apply computational infrastructure in their work are more competent.

Finally, the use of computational and networking infrastructure in the audit process makes the process to be dependent on these infrastructures and therefore it can suffer from possible breakdowns. Depending on electronic infrastructure also increase the risk of audit work in case the system is tampered with or interfered with by an external party (Brynolfsson, 1993). The other issue that is of concern in electronic data storage is the loss of data in the situation that a computer is damaged maliciously or by viruses. In such situations, the auditor can lose useful information or lose part of the information. Secondly, a third party can easily obtain data that is available over the network system, and therefore there is the issue of security concerns. It was found that auditors who used data from electronic sources had the risk of losing data or using data that has been interfered with. Finally, the use of e-commerce transaction data requires the use of computational infrastructure as compared to the traditional audit process. This implies that the external auditors have to acquire and be able to use such infrastructures and therefore the external audit process is becoming heavily dependent on technology due to the development of e-commerce (Johnston 2000).

The elimination of papers

The development of e-commerce requires that business and business transactions are carried out online and this eliminates paperwork. On the other hand, the audit process that depends on e-commerce transactions does not need to have paperwork since all records and data are stored electronically. Initially, the audit process was heavily dependent on paperwork and records and most auditors are conversant with this system. With the introduction of e-commerce, things have changed since the later form of business does not depend on paperwork and this extends to the audit process. The elimination of paperwork in the audit process is therefore the next impact of e-commerce that was observed.

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  • E-commerce ensures transaction data is available electronically and therefore it can be easily analyzed. Data that can be easily analyzed ensure efficiency in the external audit process.
  • The audit process requires a high level of accuracy and this implies that the data used in the process should be of high quality. Data obtained from electronic transaction records were found to be more accurate and this implies accurate audit reports
  • E-commerce was found to be highly dependent on computer and computer networks and therefore there is the issue of accessibility of transaction data. Data from electronic records are easily accessible to a third party and therefore there is the impact of risk following possible manipulations of data.
  • The audit process is a legal process and therefore auditors are legally responsible for their work. Data obtained from electronic sources do not comply with the legal requirements of audit data since it can easily be manipulated. Secondly, electronic data lack authentication since it is not possible to have signatures and seals on documents.
  • The other impact of e-commence on the audit process is the elimination of paperwork. The audit process is dependent on records and therefore electronic record provides paperless records to the auditors.
  • The impact of quality control is the next impact of e-commerce on the external audit process, the use of electronic data enables the auditors to compare past audit reports and therefore avoid recurring mistakes. This improves the quality of the audit process as well as the auditor as a professional.
  • Finally, the ability to keep a trail of the audit records is the other impact of e-commerce on the external audit process. Using electronically stored data in the audit process enables the auditor to compare data, audit reports from various transaction periods, and therefore produce better reports.


The use of transaction data from e-commerce on the audit process has impacts on the process that are positive while other is negative. The recommendations of this report focus on the improvement of positive impacts and the reversal of the negative impacts. To begin with, e-commerce should be based on a system that is highly secure to avoid interference of transaction data by a third party.

Secondly, the issue of lack of authentication is a major issue in e-commerce and it affects the audit process. The e-commerce regulators should therefore come up with a method of authentication in e-data and records to avoid problems that can result from lack of authentication. Businesses that use e-commerce should therefore apply authentication in their data and on data they present to the external auditors.

Thirdly, e-commerce is highly dependent on computational infrastructure for data storage and transaction purposes. Although the use of these infrastructures is advantageous to the audit process, it adds extra requirements to the audit process. E-commerce infrastructures should be harmonized to make them more useful to the external auditors and the audit process (Lucy 1999).

Finally, external auditors must learn the principles of e-commerce and its applications. Auditors should also realize that the traditional transaction systems are being overtaken by e-commerce and therefore they should learn the new technique in order for them to remain relevant in their work.

Based on reflective log 3

Reflective report

There are several reasons that have made me realize the importance of this course in my life as a student and a scholar and for my future carrier. At the beginning of this module, I never realized the importance of this course as I have realized by the end of the module. Initially, the course seemed irrelevant to my future career and studies but I have realized that it is of great importance to both my career and future studies. I have also come to the realization that my lecturer was fully aware of the course at the beginning of the module and that was the reason he issued us with an unfriendly schedule at the beginning of the module (Benjamin & Wigand 1995).

Throughout this module, I have learned important skills that are not only applicable in school life but also to life outside the school. Unlike other modules, this module has been of great importance to me since I have learned how to be patient and to work hard. Initially, work for this semester seemed unmanageable but after I applied my lecturer’s plans and strategies, I realized that there is nothing very difficult to be done. I also realized that through a working strategy it is possible to achieve things that seemed impossible at the start of the module (Johnston & Vitale 1988).

The module started with assignments and projects that had short deadlines and were complicated, which made most of the students uncomfortable. This was different to me since I applied the skills of possibility given to me by my lecturer at the beginning of the module. The strategy from my lecturer involved working a lot at the start of the work and maintaining the pace throughout the work until all work is completed. In addition, my lecturer had taught me that in anything that I do include my project it is important to consult widely from people who have been through the same. Using these two techniques, I was able to complete my work easily and with great accuracy as compared to the other students. Completing my work in good time enabled me to escape tensions experienced by other students and this had positive effects on most of my work (Barua, Ravindran & Whinston 1995).

Secondly, throughout the module I learned the principle of perseverance; I realized that in everything that I did success depended on my ability to persevere. Also, most great achievements in life are made through perseverance and therefore it is an important skill. Through the module, I persevered to achieve what I achieved at the end (Williamson1975).

Thirdly, I realized the importance of working with other students and consultations in my work and I look forward to applying the newly learned skills in my future studies. Although consultations and working in groups do not promote individual initiatives and thinking, I realized that it is a good way of learning from the mistakes committed by other people. Working in groups also enabled me to evaluate the work of other people and therefore avoid the mistakes committed in their work. Secondly, I realized that working in groups helps to share ideas, which made my work easy and free from mistakes. Working in groups also enabled me to look at and analyze the work of other people for further improvements (Mock & Wright 1993).

Thirdly, I realized that working in groups relieves the boredom of working as an individual and this has an impact on my classwork and on my work outside the class environment. Working and reading in groups is a good way to socialize with other students that enabled me to learn important skills outside the classroom environment (Champy & Hammer 1992).

This module particularly the last week has been very important in my career as a student since my lecturer told me that I had improved a lot in my classwork. This gave me the morale and encouragement that I need to go through the next module and life outside school. In addition, my project supervisor informed me that I had done very well in my final year project and that it had been nominated as the best project for the year. This encouraged me into taking other projects in the future although I had considered taking coursework instead of projects in case there is an option. My supervisor also informed me that there was a possibility of getting sponsorship following my successful project work. This made me realize that the encouragement and guidance of mentors are useful in the learning process, and therefore in the future, I shall have academic mentors in all my courses (Austen, Eilifsen & Messier 2004).

In conclusion, this module has been very important not only to my work as a student but also in my future life and career. Through my tutor’s advice, I have learned that perseverance is important in all my ventures and future career. I have also realized that I need to persevere in order to achieve something. Secondly, this module taught me the importance of working with other students particularly reading in groups. Working with other students enabled me to compare and evaluate my work with that of other students. Secondly, working in groups enabled me to avoid mistakes committed by other students in my work. Finally, I realized that there is a need to have an academic mentor in my future career prospects and plans.


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