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Why being 'short staffed' should never be written in an audit report

Updated: Jul 5, 2019

It was almost ironic the timing. Whilst performing an audit (and being told by the business area "... how under resourced, and under-pressure" they were, I received a Google Alert regarding the Rocky Mount Telegram. The article made reference to almost $450k worth of funding being repaid back to the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The article is almost trivial, but still a good read (you can read the full article here). What caught my attention in the article however, was this:

"Our HUD representative indicated that we were short staffed and Internal Audit agrees,"

When I started in Audit and Assurance at a Big 4 firm, after going down rabbit holes and taking in everything that the business area told me, I proudly announced to my Engagement Manager, that the issue was resourcing. The underlying issue for everything I had found, was simply, there wasn't enough staff. I have thankfully grown up a lot since then, and the words of my Manager at the time will always stick with me; "Lack of staff is never the issue. Everyone thinks they are busy. It's not for us to confirm if they are busy, understaffed, or just lazy". It was a brutal shut down of my audit observation, but nonethe