Communicating and working together lead to successful audits in a remote environment

Aug 31, 2020

The Office of the Washington State Auditor made the move to remote auditing in March, and overall we have found the transition to be successful and sustainable for the foreseeable future. However, we have noticed that audits sometimes take a little longer in this environment. In adapting to auditing in a remote environment, flexibility and robust communication have been key to performing timely audits.

When audits are taking longer, the cause often is that clients need more time to pull documents and respond to questions, especially since they might not be in the office where records are easily available.

We understand the unusual demands placed on state agencies and local governments during this time and will work with each client to be flexible regarding audit logistics. This includes working through client staff availability, video conferencing needs, and coordinating how to best share documents. For example, when it is not feasible to supply electronic records, we will coordinate how to obtain physical records, such as picking up or exchanging documents from your workplace, while of course following social distancing rules.

Robust communication is vital to a successful audit, now more than ever. Although these are not new strategies, the following are three ways we are communicating with clients in this remote environment to help the process go smoothly:

  1. Pre-audit meetings. These meetings are valuable in ensuring we get off to a good start. Generally, this is where we set up a phone call to discuss the timing and logistics of the audit. During this call, we also discuss the document request list and make a plan for how we will share documents needed to complete the audit.
  • Document request lists. Auditors often compile and give you a list of documents that we anticipate needing for our audit. Generally, the list starts with items we will need to plan the audit, such as meeting minutes, responses to prior audit recommendations, and answers to some general questions about events that occurred during the audit period. We also include other documents that we know we will need later in the audit, such as bank statements, reconciliations, and debt agreements for a financial statement audit. It is important to note that sometimes these lists can appear overwhelming at first glance. Please work with your auditors to coordinate how to tackle this list.
  • Audit status meetings. These meetings should be held at least weekly, although they can take place more frequently. This is a good time for us to discuss the progress of the audit, any outstanding requests or questions, and any potential areas of concern or recommendations. These meetings are a perfect time for you to ask questions or let us know if something is not working for you so we can make adjustments.

In addition, we have moved to using video conference applications, such as Skype and Microsoft Teams, for meetings, allowing auditors and auditees to look at documents together and more effectively collaborate.

Once your audit is scheduled and we have established effective channels for communication, we should be able to complete your audit in a timely manner.