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Five Tips to Reduce Audit Fatigue
Any business or organization can expect to be audited at some point, often regularly and at various levels, from payroll to quality control. While time consuming, audits are essential to assess the effectiveness of your processes, procedures and ensure your financial records are compliant with regulators, as well as safe from mismanagement.
But when your manager has to take time away from their role to address different auditors asking the same questions three or four times, time consuming becomes costly – and annoying.
The key to a successful audit is organizing the process so your key stakeholders know what is coming, when and develop it in the most effective order. Here are five ways to keep your audit(s) on track.
Assign a High-Level Champion
Make sure there’s someone with enough experience and authority in the organization to coordinate the process and get everyone on the same page. This person knows what assurance activities are going to happen over the next 6-18 months, where the audits are taking place, what’s needed and who’s doing them – external and internal auditor, compliance team, quality control team for manufacturers.
The leader will map the risks those activities are going to cover, the scope of audit and where there are intercepts.
Who: A financial statement officer at a manufacturing plant and its quality control team.
What: The quality control team is concerned about manufacturing defects and checks warranties for data pointing towards emerging problems so they can deal with them. The financial statement officer is interested because they need to sign off on the warranty reserves on the company’s financial statement.
How: The high-level champion identifies both as risk areas and coordinates audit work to be completed once, during the same quarter, rather twice at different times.
Time It Right
Determine the order the audits need to happen. Look at your organization’s auditable universe, when the last audits were and where are there intercepts. Then tie them together in an audit plan.
For example, if you have a company hosting your cloud-based computing, you will want a service auditor report from them in time for your external auditor’s review, as well as for customers who want information about your IT controls and have an audit clause in their contract.
One Report to Rule Them All
Track all your audit and compliance findings to implement them efficiently across your enterprise by reporting on results in a consolidated manner. The entire organization needs to know what risks were uncovered and improvements made to make audits worth while.
Say your business has offices across Canada and a report by the internal auditor for the prairie region highlights a list of things that need to be improved. An external auditor might be tracking the overall organization, including the prairies. Without proper oversight, your business might by working at cross-purposes, fixing an issue in one region which could be applied to the company as a whole.
Tear Down Those Silos
Avoid information – good and bad – hording. If an error is found during an audit in a department, region or business unit, it needs to be known and shared in an appropriate way, so it can be fixed – and avoided – in other places. To enable this, businesses might have to work on finding and overcoming communication barriers to have a more open culture
And if your department gets a request for an audit, make sure the request flows up through the organization to the person coordinating all external party activities. For example, if you get a notice from the provincial health and safety agency because of a possible health and safety infraction, the coordinator might find existing corporate health and safety information that can be used to correct the issue instead of building new standards.
Some Things are Meant to Stay Private
While open and transparent communication promotes effective audit processes, they can also pose a threat to privacy unless guidelines are put in place and followed. If you share client / staff data, such as health records or payroll, between departments during an audit, make sure personal information like social insurance numbers or home addresses, are deleted.
The audit process needs to have oversight no privacy laws, provincial, national or jurisdictional, are being broken. An experienced, knowledgeable team will help ensure the audit remains compliant to privacy regulations, adding another layer of protection to your organization’s reputation.
Anti-Audit Fatigue Checklist
Map out when, where and by whom audits take place and ensure stakeholders such as managers are kept in the loop.
We provide tailored audit services to organizations of all sizes – from small, independent businesses to large, multi-national corporations. Our audits involve a comprehensive review and analysis of your financial statements and related business records, giving you valuable advice on improving internal controls, identifying fiscal irregularities before they become an issue and providing an accurate picture of your current financial state.
For more information, contact Geoff Rodrigues, National Leader, Internal Audit Services, at 416.596.1711 or [email protected] or Jim Barbour, Enterprise Risk Services, at 647.943.4114 or [email protected]
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