Audit Reporting is one of the most crucial parts of the audit process. Its the final output from the audit and the main deliverable which is presented to management, the audit committee, and possibly even the Board or external auditors. The quality of your final report is a direct reflection of the effort put into your review. It's my opinion that a final report should not tell the business what they already know, but instead, add value to the area being reviewed, and the business overall.
There is so much guidance and information available on the internet to help with producing a good final report, however, I have my own personal take away's. At it's core, a good audit report should focus on the following:
Comply with the IIA Standards
Deliver on the Scope
Probably not the most conventional list, but lets dig into these a bit further.
Comply with the IIA Standards
Sounds basic and boring, but the standards are there for a reason and its important we take stock of these and make sure these are embedded into our reports. Standards 2440 – Disseminating Results and 2450 – Overall Opinions are the primary paragraphs associated with audit reporting. You can read the Standards here to familiarise yourself with their requirements.
Deliver of the Scope
Again, this sounds like another pretty basic concept, however its easy to lose track of what the Scope of the review was, particularly where there are big issues during fieldwork which may take up majority of our time and effort. There are many ways to tackle this and ensure we deliver against the Scope. The quickest and easiest way is to simply just whack the Scope document into the report and an Appendix. My Internal Audit Assignment Plan PowerPoint template have been designed so that you can easily just 'copy and paste' the slide into the report.
An alternative approach, which works much better with larger, more complex reports, is to include a breakdown of the scope into the Executive Summary. An example is included below.
A breakdown per scope area works particularly well where a report may cross a number of business areas, as it allows each business area to focus on the section which is relevant to them.
Lastly, another option is for individual recommendations to be linked back to Scope area, however we need to be careful that we are not overloading the user with information which detracts away from the core issue.
You don't want to give out a report that tells the reader what they already know. Doing this can make the business area feel as though their time has been wasted and could have been better utilised actually addressing the issues identified in the report.
Internal Audit has a unique position in a business whereby it knows a lot of things which are going on across the business. It should have regular contact with Senior Management and a good understanding of business strategy. Because of this unique, and valuable position, Internal Audit should be able to give insightful and powerful recommendations. For instance, where an issue may relate to otherwise standard process (i.e. accounts payable), audit should be able to link any recommendation back to company goals or strategies. Furthermore, Internal Audit should be able to identify opportunities for the process to be more efficient; thus adding value both locally to the business area, and more broadly as it attempts to align with the company strategy.
A great place to find opportunities and understand where value can be added is during the Findings and Actions workshop. These workshops can encourage audit and the business to work together to formulate meaningful recommendations.
It's a personal gripe of mine that audit reports can be dull, don't push the boundaries, and don't provoke discussion. In my opinion, an audit report which simply states facts in size 12 Times New Roman font is boring and is never going to attract attention or inspire anyone to actually improve.
Whilst all reports should be factual, it doesn't mean we can't have fun with them. Use of colours, have fun in presenting the issue and educate the business area are just a few things we can do to make our reports more exciting.
My templates have been designed to do exactly this. They are transparent (explain what we did), and report on the facts (what we found and what we expected). The executive summary also provides an opportunity to call out key highlights from the review, or opportunities for improvement.
One thing not included in my report template which I am a big fan of, is for businesses which are new to audit, or areas that have larger issues that may take a while to tackle, is using a progressive recommendation. Instead of having the standard 'Recommendation' section within the report, it can be replaced with something similar to what is shown in the screenshot below.
By setting the recommendation as 'Now', 'Then' and 'Finally', we are able to show where we are now and what we need to do to address the risk in the interim, and finally what we need to do to get us to where we want to be in the future. The structure of this recommendation page is to be both educational and ambitious. The short nature of it encourages auditors to be to the point and not be bogged down in unnecessary detail.
Whilst my comments focus largely on the structure and presentation of the report, the Institute of Internal Auditors magazine 'IA Online' provides other great advice to ensure the content is good. You can check out their advice here.
Presenting your report
I have developed three audit templates to act as a guide and provide inspiration for your own audit reports. Simply click on the picture below to be taken to the relevant template.
PowerPoint Internal Audit Report
This is strictly a one item per page report. The layout of the report ensures that the auditor keeps it short and to the point. The PowerPoint layout means observations can be easily moved around the report as necessary.
A con of this report template is the lack of track changes.
Microsoft Word Internal Audit Report
This report follows almost the exact same layout as the PowerPoint version. A major difference between the Word report when compared to the PowerPoint is the ability for the report to cross pages.
For larger, more complex reports, this template allows for the writer to use a lot more text, diagrams and flows to better explain the issues.
A con of this template is that it cannot be as easy to move observations around, however a pro is the fact it does have track changes!
Microsoft Word One Page Internal Audit Report
This is my new favourite. As you will see in later (planned) blog posts, I am starting to become a fan of the one page audit reports, particularly for stock standard compliance reviews over key processes. For instance, audit topics such as Accounts Payable, HR Payroll Testing, or Training Compliance reviews which can be performed at a high level annually through a desktop data analysis exercise, this one page audit report template is a great way to present the observations and simple recommendations. Whilst this report won't allow you to be adventurous or add value, it is a simple way to provide assurance over a high level desktop review.
Simply CLICK HERE to download your free template.