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Auditing in the age of COVID-19

A 1993 episode of The Simpsons focused on a viral breakout, while a 1995 episode titled ‘Bart’s Comet’ draws parallels to what the world is now facing. The writers have an unnerving way of predicting the future.

Related Topics:
The year that changed everything
Beyond compliance
23 November 2020
David Berkelmans
10mins

Considering what is essential

A 1993 episode of The Simpsons focused on a viral breakout, while a 1995 episode titled ‘Bart’s Comet’ draws parallels to what the world is now facing. The writers have an unnerving way of predicting the future.

Picture this: Springfield’s residents are huddled in a bomb shelter to escape the comet. The bomb shelter is over-crowded. A conversation starts about who is an essential worker and therefore needs to stay in the shelter.

First, Krusty declares the world needs laughter so he is essential. Moe argues that he needs to pour drinks, while Homer needs to run the power plant, and Reverend Lovejoy must provide religious enlightenment, so they all decide they are essential. The one person they decide is not essential is Ned Flanders – based on their argument that left-handed stores are not essential services.

With conversations about ‘essential workers’ doing the rounds closer to home, this episode made me contemplate whether auditors are COVID-19’s left-handed stores.

Of course, auditors are essential

As a left-handed auditor myself, I very quickly became convinced that both left-handed stores and auditors are essential! I’ll save the left-handed store argument for another day and concentrate on the important role of auditors in the current pandemic.

With the move to remote working and variable working arrangements, organisations are inevitably taking on more risk. Organisations are also making decisions about what is essential within their own organisations. These changes and decisions can create new or increased risks within an organisation.

“This is where auditors become particularly important, because we are trained professionals who can independently assist organisations to navigate this rapid change in their risk environment.”

This is where auditors become particularly important, because we are trained professionals who can independently assist organisations to navigate this rapid change in their risk environment. For organisations to get to the other side of the COVID-19 crisis, they must mitigate risks where possible. It’s the auditors who can help them through this journey.

How do auditors work remotely?

Based on the premise that auditors are essential, how do we actually do our jobs in the current social distancing environment?

At Synergy I am fortunate to work for a company that embraced the use of digital technologies long before the COVID-19 outbreak. Our corporate systems including project management and resourcing tools that are all cloud-based so there is no need for any of our audit team to ever physically be at the office.

Years ago, we developed a bespoke working paper solution for auditing that is hosted securely on Sharepoint. This has allowed our audit team to work in a remote way for many years. The transition to remote working for our team has therefore been relatively seamless.

Having said that, a key tool used by auditors is face-to-face meetings to gather audit evidence. This is now not possible with most organisations under strict social distancing rules. Within Synergy and across our client base, we have seen many innovations to work around this.

Microsoft Teams has supported much of our internal interactions for some time. Through Teams and other video conference solutions we have been able to conduct audit interviews remotely with the same efficiency as face-to-face meetings.

We have also fully embraced the use of GovTEAMS (www.govteams.gov.au) where available. Our experience with the generic Teams tool means our staff have been able to transition to GovTEAMS with no training.

"We have also fully embraced the use of GovTEAMS.”

Long before the COVID-19 pandemic, we arranged access to our clients via remote working facilities –when the current pandemic started there was no need for us to wait for tokens, devices or training; we were ready to go.

Your partner in auditing

The last few weeks have been tough for a lot of people around the world for many different reasons, but there have been some positives that can be taken out of it.

For me, it’s the resilience and adaptability I have seen from our audit team at Synergy. In truth we had a little bit of a head start in digital working practices, but you need a great team to implement new processes in a time of a crisis and still manage to get the job done with professionalism and efficiency. I’m very proud to say I work with a wonderful team and equally impressive clients.

Now, let’s talk about left-handed stores…

About Synergy Group

Our work, across a broad range of capabilities, is focused on government.

We work with efficiency and intuition as a trusted business adviser. If you need an audit partner, contact us today.

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