COVID-19 has meant that QAO and most of our clients have had to significantly change the way they operate. While Australia has done a great job of flattening the curve, it’s still unclear when most entities will return to working from an office and what this may look like. Although a lot of value for our clients comes from face-to-face engagement, technology has shown us that audits can be undertaken remotely.
In our previous blog How we’re working with our clients during COVID-19, we identified tools to help us interact with you, work remotely and continue collaborating. This article identifies some tips on how your entity can proactively engage with us, at a time when social distancing and travel restrictions have limited our personal interactions.
Technology is most effective when we have an open communication channel with our clients and our mutual trust and respect remains strong. We really enjoy keeping the face-to-face interaction up and would love to continue this by using video-conferencing technology. Just check that your preferred software package has the appropriate controls to safeguard your information technology general control environment—not all do.
Client assistance schedules
A client assistance schedule, otherwise known as a CAS or an audit request list, is an important tool for your entity and audit team to track receipt of information requests that audit teams have made. We generally ensure that the CAS is made available to our clients about two weeks in advance of our audit ‘visits’. Changes in our work arrangements have resulted in QAO and client staff having limited or no access to office sites, meaning your entity may need to receive the CAS earlier than usual. Speak to your auditor if you are concerned about being able to provide information to us within the time frames we previously agreed upon.
Our agreed upon milestones
We agreed an audit timetable with you at the beginning of the audit. For many of our clients, this was before the pandemic took hold. You may be concerned about your entity’s ability to deliver incremental milestones, such as asset valuations, proforma financial statements, or position papers on key accounting matters. Please reach out to your engagement leader so we can discuss the issue and come to a common-sense agreement for a new milestone date.
Change in control environment
Controls that existed when working in an office environment could have substantially changed with the move to alternate work arrangements. They may now have some weakness, or your entity may have implemented additional controls to strengthen the current environment, such as new preventative or detective controls.
Changes in the control environment impact on our audit and where we focus our efforts. We test controls because this is more efficient than testing a lot of extra transactions substantively (that is, back to original records). Talk about any process changes with your auditor so we can determine if we need to change what, when and how we test.
Providing insights to our clients, parliament and our broader stakeholders is a key aspect of our day-to-day business. In recent weeks, we have published several blogs on our website that continue to provide these insights. We also have a series of fact sheets on relevant topics, including a recently published fact sheet on how to deal with asset valuations in times when the government has placed travel restrictions.
Please let us know if there is a topic you’d like us to address. You can speak with your engagement leader, engagement manager or email firstname.lastname@example.org.