Time Frames: Are You Establishing Them for the Issuance of Audit Reports?
Pamela Edwards-Faulk, CFE
Internal Review Evaluator
U.S. Department of the Army
Internal auditors are viewed by many as an extension of top management. Therefore, it is a good practice to issue timely audit reports to management who are vested in the audit results. Timely audit results show management that not only are auditors committed to improving the deficiencies identified in the audit, but also that they are committed to helping management improve the overall effectiveness and efficiencies of the organization’s operations.
Significant delays and long cycle times often result in management dissatisfaction because memories of the audit can become stale. Internal auditors who don’t ensure that audit results are communicated to management risk developing a negative reputation within their organization. Also, management may develop process action teams to assist with future issues and problems instead of seeking the assistance of internal auditors. Therefore, it is essential that an audit entity plan to issue the audit report or the audit results promptly, or the subsequent report will be of little value to management.
Communicating audit results, whether positive or negative, can be a challenge. The delay of negative results is even more stressful when the information is not conveyed timely. That is why it is imperative that all auditors make it a goal to communicate audit results timely. In accordance with the International Standards for the Professional Practice of Internal Auditing, for managers to take corrective action, audit results need to be current and relevant.
There are alternatives to issuing a formal audit report. Memorandum reports or summary reports can still outline the condition, cause, criteria, effect, and recommendations. This will allow management to issue the report within a number of days as opposed to a number of weeks or months. A memorandum report or summary report is by no means a substitute for the final report; however, it allows management the opportunity to correct the deficiencies identified during the audit prior to receiving the final report. Of course, this is on a case-by-case basis. There are times when a detailed report is required due to the significance of the audit findings.
The establishment of time frames and milestones is twofold; not only is it an effective way to ensure audit reports are conveyed to the organization’s leadership timely, it also will allow audit management to measure the progress of the internal audit department. For example, audit managers and supervisors can make it a standard that all reports will be published within 10 days of completing fieldwork. This is, of course, at the audit manager’s discretion because each audit has its own issues that may prevent an auditor from meeting this goal. Different audit approaches can and should be applied depending on the circumstances. However, it is better to have a standard goal as opposed to issuing reports at random.
Establishing a time frame with specific milestones will ensure audit reports are issued within a reasonable amount of time and will hold auditors accountable to a schedule. Additionally, managers and supervisors can modify the audit report format to help ensure that reports are issued timely. After all, establishing measurable goals within the audit department can provide a standard for measuring its progress.
Unfortunately, auditors are faced with the same challenges of balancing workloads and expectations with limited resources. However, finding opportunities to issue reports with limited resources — particularly for smaller audit entities — is achievable. By performing timely, value-added audits, internal auditors will show their value within their organization. Also, issuing timely audit reports will not only enhance the auditors’ credibility, it also will show management that it can depend upon internal auditors to provide meaningful recommendations.
Posted on Aug 15, 2011 by Tim
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