Rising to the challenge of remote auditing

Rising to the challenge of internal auditing-min

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed work as we know it, and audits are no exception. The practice has had to evolve significantly to conduct audits in a completely new context. This has introduced many challenges to which auditors had to adjust by adapting their methodological approach and tools.

Firstly, auditors have always relied on their ability to build a rapport with auditees and this one aspect of auditing has suffered most. Face-to-face meetings have become “yet another” Zoom call and stepping into a manager’s office to enquire about walk-throughs seems a relic of a bygone era. The same applies to audit teams, where working side by side on site has shifted to individual remote work interspersed with meetings. With the return to normalcy, audit clients will undoubtedly separate auditors from their staff in order to maintain health and safety protocols in their premises.

Secondly, the migration to digitally enabled remote auditing has also blunted the ability of auditors to assess the authenticity of documents and evidence obtained from their clients. It is far more difficult to verify their authenticity, their provenance and the validity of the information they contain. Overall, this has led to increased detection risk, which auditors need to be aware of when determining the scope of audit engagements.

Because of these challenges, auditors—much like any professionals affected by the pandemic—have had to adapt.

Communication is key. It is one of the most important skills for auditors to master, and it has gained even greater importance in the post-COVID work environment. It is ever more essential in all phases of an audit, during planning, during fieldwork and when reporting on the audit findings. It also defines the audit teams’ ability to function remotely, an aspect rapidly reinforced by the use of tools such as Slack, Microsoft teams or any of a slew of office communication systems.

More than ever, auditors are challenged to evolve their ability to work and communicate effectively, both with clients and with their team. They must learn to leverage digital interactions to build rapport while maintaining a level of professional scepticism – the ability to remain objective and independent while conducting audits – and fostering healthy collaboration to achieve a successful audit. Even practices such as the use of cameras during audit interviews can help auditors build rapport while remaining mindful of body language, which can help them detect any anomalies. Such observations not only help to spot fraud and misstatements, but also create value for clients by identifying opportunities for better governance, controls and operations.