As we have seen many parties rely on the audit opinion to make decisions, and therefore it is now a well established fact that if the auditor gives an audit opinion that is wrong in some particular then they stand a chance of suffering some damage.
Audit risk therefore could be defined as the chance of damage to the audit firm as a result of giving an opinion that is wrong in some particular. Or put another way, it could be explained as the possibility that financial statements contain material mis-statements which had escaped detection by both an internal control on which the auditor has relied and on the auditor's own substantive tests and other work.
It could be looked at also as: the possibility that the auditor may be required to pay damages to the client or other persons as a consequence of:1. The financial statements containing a mis-statement;2. The complaining party suffering a loss as a direct consequence of relying on the financial statement and 3. Negligence by the auditor in not detecting any reporting on the mis-statement which can be demonstrated.
Damage to the audit firm or the auditor may be in the form of monetary damages paid to the complainant as compensation or simply damage to their reputation with a client or the business community.
All audits involve an element of risk such that however strong the audit evidence and however careful the auditor, there is always a possibility of an error or a fraud going undetected. It is generally known that the auditor who organises his office and staff in a competent manner and follows auditing standards and guidelines is unlikely to be found negligent and to pay damages as a consequence of fraud or error not being discovered by him.
Audit risk can be either normal or higher than normal.