Adapting to Remote Audit
The COVID-19 pandemic has presented many business challenges. Large organizations around the world pivoted to remote work to maintain business continuity and audit profession was no exception. A remote audit, also known as virtual audit, is the method of conducting an audit remotely, using electronic methods such as video conferencing, email and telephone to obtain audit evidence, just like during an on-site audit.
Remote auditing has been a challenge for the profession because of the belief that auditors may be more likely to discover fraud or simple mistakes when they visit a site. Moreover, clients are likely to always remember how their auditors responded to the pandemic. So it is necessary that auditors should make use of the remote audit to deliver a high-quality service to the client.
The benefits from the remote audit can be broadly classified as below;
Ease with the use of Technology
The utilization of technology for sharing data such as a cloud portal will save both time and money. If a set time is allocated for remote audit activity, auditees are less likely to be side-tracked or disturbed with any other work requests. Moreover, interviews and audit meetings can be conducted through popular platforms like Microsoft Teams, Skype or zoom, which are regularly used by many of the companies already.
Audit team efficiency
Remote working unlocks the available manpower resource and there will be wider access to auditors with the right competence, including across borders. ‘Audit burnout’ is common in the industry, particularly if auditors are carrying out several projects simultaneously. Remote auditing can break up the audit process which will help to reduce burnouts without turning down the efficiency of the overall audit process.
Savings in logistics
When conducting remote audits, there will be minimal logistics related to booking conference rooms as well as worrying about audit team accommodation and other related inconveniences experienced during an onsite audit. There will be a significant reduction in money and time spent on commuting to the audit location.
Some of the probable challenges to remote audit are;
The expectations of multinationals and small or medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) clients may not be the same. Many of the owner-managed businesses would want to talk in person and want to have that personal touch in the audit.
Common Issues with technology
The reliability of network connections can be a concern based on the location of the auditee and the technology used. Sometimes the auditee can have difficulties with accessing the private networks to log into a database in order to share the audit evidence.
The entities that require inventory/physical asset observation procedures, the transition to remote auditing may prove more challenging.
Remote Audit at HLB HAMT
We have already been employing cloud-based technologies and software for our audit purposes for the past few years. Our team members engaged were already well trained and confident in the use of the technologies. The transition from on-site to remote audits was already ongoing and has been sped up due to the pandemic.
The circumstances paved a way for us to encourage our clients to utilize a secure portal to share data and to be available for Adhoc meetings. What we learned is that inter-personal behaviors and relationships can do so much to maintain the flow of information in the remote audit process. What was left to us was to learn the balancing of both personal breaks and work timeslots. The feedback from our remote auditees is that the “remote auditing process is seamless and has time savings’.
A remote audit has already proven beneficial for both auditors and clients. It is probable that this is here to stay and auditees have to redesign themselves to adapt to the new normal.
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