Maintaining audit timelines during COVID

Why communication is the key to performing a timely audit

Coronavirus has thrown man challenges at us. The sudden impact of the virus saw businesses and audit teams fundamentally change their way of working overnight. Whilst audit team members begun working remotely, others were pulled into the frontline, helping the business to enact business continuity plans, or providing assurance to audit committees that controls are still operating and risks being addressed or managed.


With the virus and lockdown measures being in place for some time now, audit teams have become accustomed to the new norm. Working remotely whilst performing virtual walkthroughs is the new challenge for some audit teams, but given our agile nature and ability to work remotely most of the time, auditors have generally adapted to the changes well. Unfortunately, other teams within the business may have not, and as auditors, we need to be conscious of this.

In some businesses, teams have been reduced due to a lack or business or removed completely, yet as auditors, there may be a need for us to still perform work in these areas to provide senior management and the audit committee, with assurance.

So how do we ensure that we can work effectively with the business during COVID?

There are a five key objectives which underpin how we can effectively work with the business. These include:

  • good communication;

  • clear timeframes;

  • transparency;

  • Supportive audit team; and

  • respect

We will describe below how each of these factors can be achieved. Furthermore, our Intro to Audit Kit (which you can purchase here), will also how how this can be achieved.


Good Communication

This can be easily achieved and it is something which we should be doing in every audit anyway. Where a business area has been heavily impacted by Coronavirus, it is important that audit teams develop good and regular communication. Through this, we will be able to develop a good working relationship with area to be reviewed which will be crucial if audit is to complete their requested tasks with an already under pressure audit team.


Clear Timeframes

If we are to perform an audit on a team which is struggling under the pressures of Coronavirus, it is important that we determine clear timeframes with each other. By doing this, we are able to ensure our audit can be completed in a timely manner, however it also ensures we are not adding too much pressure to the business area or taking up too much of their time.


Transparency

This almost goes hand in hand with honesty. Audit teams must be clear in what work they need to do, what the driver / reason is for the review, and how much time this is going to take up. For instance, Finance teams which may have been reduced due to coronavirus will soon be facing the impact of financial statement audits (particularly for those with 30 June year ends), so having an internal audit team appearing to perform controls testing will be adding unwanted pressure. Being honest and transparent in why we are there and what needs to be done, will help with discussions on the best way of working which will adhere to our timeframes and recognise their capacity issues.


Supportive Audit Team

Applying an audit team which can be sensitive, yet firm when necessary, is important. Auditors should not allow Coronavirus to be used as an excuse, however should recognise its impact. Audit teams must be supportive when undertaking these particualr audits, yet still remain impartial and objective as per our ethics. Not an easy feat, particularly when emotions can become involved.


Respect

Respect goes both ways, but can easily start with the auditor. By implementing audit timeframes which are respectful of the business area and their challenges and clearly defining the scope to only address risks identified, the audit team should be able to gain and maintain respect with the business area, and equally, should feel respected themselves from the business area.


How can we achieve all of this?

Simple. We have developed an Intro to Audit Kit which can be neatly tailored to suit the situation at hand. This kit, which you can view here, helps to establish clear timelines, introduces your supportive audit team, and sets the tone for how the audit team and business area can communicate clearly with one another going forward.


Below is an example of the Intro to Audit Kit.



To purchase an editable version of this template, please click here.


The above template should be used at the very beginning of planning, and well before planning actually commences. This will help ensure the audit team and impacted business area are on the same page from the very beginning.


How have you managed auditing impacted business areas? Let us know by visiting our Forum and sharing your thoughts.



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