AUDIT and AUDITOR. An audit is the examination of the accounts kept by the financial officers of a state, public corporations and bodies, or private persons, and the certifying of their accuracy. In the United Kingdom the public accounts were audited from very early times, though, until the reign of Queen Elizabeth, in no very systematic way. Prior to 1559 this duty was carried out, sometimes by auditors specially appointed, at other times by the auditors of the land revenue, or by the auditor of the exchequer, an office established as early as 1314. But in 1559 an endeavour was made to systematize the auditing of the public accounts, by the appointment of two auditors of the imprests. These officers were paid by fee and did their work by deputy, but as the results were thoroughly unsatisfactory the offices were abolished in 1785. An audit board, consisting of five commissioners, was appointed in their place, but in order to concentrate under one authority the auditing of the accounts of the various departments, some of which had been audited separately, as the naval accounts, the Exchequer and Audit Act of 1866 was passed. This statute, which sets forth at length the duties of the audit office, empowered the sovereign to appoint a "comptroller and auditor-general," with the requisite staff to examine and verify the accounts prepared by the different departments of the public service. In examining accounts of the appropriation of the several supply grants, the comptroller and auditor-general "ascertains first whether the payments which the account department has charged to the grant are supported by vouchers or proofs of payments; and second, whether the money expended has been applied to the purpose or purposes for which such grant was intended to provide." The treasury may also submit certain other accounts to the audit of the comptroller-general. All public moneys payable to the exchequer (q.v.) are paid to the "account of His Majesty's exchequer" at the Bank of England, and daily returns of such payments are forwarded to the comptroller. Quarterly accounts of the income and charge of the consolidated fund are prepared and transmitted to him, and in case of any deficiency in the consolidated fund, he may certify to the bank to make advances.
In the United States the auditing of the Federal accounts is in the charge of the treasury department, under the supervision of the comptroller of the treasury, under whom are six auditors, (1) for the treasury department, (2) for the war, (3) for the interior, (4) for the navy, (5) for the state, etc., (6) for the post office, as well as a register and assistant register, who keep all general receipt and expenditure ledgers; there are official auditors in most of the states and in many cities. In practically all European countries there is a department of the administration, charged with the auditing of the public accounts, as the cour des comptes in France, the Rechnungshof des deutschen Reiches in Germany, etc. All local boards, large cities, corporations, and other bodies have official auditors for the purpose of examining and checking their accounts and looking after their expenditure. So far as regards the work which auditors discharge in connexion with the accounts of joint-stock companies, building societies, friendly societies, industrial and provident societies, savings banks, etc., the word auditor is now almost synonymous with "skilled accountant," and his duties are discussed in the article Accountants.
In Scotland there is an "auditor" who is an official of the court of session, appointed to tax costs in litigation, and who corresponds to the English taxing-master. In France there are legal officers, called auditors, attached to the Conseil d'Etat, whose duties consist in drawing up briefs and preparing documents. On the continent of Europe, lawyers skilled in military law are called "auditors" (see Military Law).
Auditor is also the designation of certain officials of the Roman curia. The auditores Rotae are the judges of the court of the Rota (so called, according to Hinschius, probably from the form of the panelling in the room where they originally met). These were originally ecclesiastics appointed to hear particular questions in dispute and report to the pope, who retained the decision in his own hands. In the Speculum juris of Durandus (published in 1272 and re-edited in 1287 and 1291) the auditores palatii domini papae are cited as permanent officials appointed to instruct the pope on questions as they arose. The court of the Rota appears for the first time under this name in the bull Romani Pontificis of Martin V. in 1422, and the auditores by this time had developed into a permanent tribunal to which the definitive decision of certain disputes, hitherto relegated to a commission of cardinals or to the pope himself, was assigned. From this time the powers of the auditores increased until the reform of the curia by Sixtus V., when the creation of the congregations of cardinals for specific purposes tended gradually to withdraw from the Rota its most important functions. It still, however, ranks as the supreme court of justice in the papal curia, and, as members of it, the auditores enjoy special privileges. They are prelates, and, besides the rights enjoyed by these, have others conceded by successive popes, e.g. that of holding benefices in plurality, of non-residence, etc. When the pope says mass pontifically the subdeacon is always an auditor. The auditores must be in priest's or deacon's orders, and have always been selected - nominally at least - after severe tests as to their moral and intellectual qualifications. They are twelve in number, and, by the constitution of Pius IV., four of them were to be foreigners; one French, one Spanish, one German and one Venetian; while the nomination of others was the privilege of certain, cities. No bishop, unless in partibus (see Bishop), may be an auditor. On the other hand, from the auditores, as the intellectual élite of the curia, the episcopate, the nunciature and the cardinalate are largely recruited. The auditor camerae (uditore generale della reverenda camera apostolica) is an official formerly charged with important executive functions. In 1485, by a bull of Innocent VIII., he was given extensive jurisdiction over all civil and criminal causes arising in the curia, or appealed to it from the papal territories. In addition he received the function of watching over the execution of all sentences passed by the curia. This was extended later, by Pius IV., to a similar executive function in respect of all papal bulls and briefs, wherever no special executor was named. This right was confirmed by Gregory XVI. in 1834, and the auditor may still in principle issue letters monitory. In practice, however, this function was at all times but rarely exercised, and, since 1847, has fallen to a prelate locum tenens, who also took over the auditor's jurisdiction in the papal states (Hinschius, Kathol. Kirchenrecht, i. 409, etc.).
Auditores (listeners), in the early Church, was another name. for catechumens (q.v.).
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)