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Rolling forward prior audit workpapers; are we trapping ourselves?

Updated: Jul 16, 2019

With all the focus currently on Big 4 audit firms and the quality of their audits, it has made me question the amount, we as auditors, rely on the work performed during prior year audits. At the commencement of any audit, there is a substantial investment by the firm to understand, document, and test all relevant processes within a new audit client. Even with the work of the previous audit firm, it is still necessary for the current auditor to learn as much detail as necessarily possible about their current client. The same could also be said for SOX auditors, who spend a significant amount of time documenting processes, controls and performing test procedures, within an organisation.

Given the investment in the first year, it is often common practice that audit teams will roll forward workpapers from prior year audits. It is here that the problem lies.