Remote Auditing – Greg Cargin, Robert Bell, Jeff Pavlik, Sara Reynolds, Alex Simon

In my last article, I wrote about what had become the new work environment at Gardiner + Company as a result of the pandemic. What we learned during the pandemic is that we are able to perform our primary job functions as efficiently working remote as being in our offices (or yours). Our profession is certainly different than many in that aspect. Last month we sent out surveys on the changing work environment with a few of the questions focusing on Remote Audit. In reviewing those results, it became apparent that a vast majority of our clients were in favor of some sort of remote audit. As a result, we are making a paradigm shift in the way we plan and implement remote work in our upcoming audits.

What is Remote Auditing?
Remote auditing is a challenging topic for both our profession and for you,  as the clients we serve. Remote auditing is an alternative that can make the audit experience easier and more efficient for both the audited company as well as the audit team. Without the advantage of an on-site audit, some may worry that auditors are more likely to unintentionally overlook mistakes, errors, or fraud. That is why it is imperative that practitioners performing procedures remotely must make certain they are following all standards and taking extra care to use technology at their disposal to avoid missing anything. When performing audits remotely, we have the same obligations to comply with generally accepted auditing standards and deliver the highest quality work that you expect– no different than working on-site. We will be doing much of what we have always done, but changing the format, process, and location. Change is not always easy, but is necessary.

The benefits can be seen by both parties. From our perspective, being able to perform a portion of the audit remotely will allow us to reduce our staff’s travel time and overnights, thus increasing productivity while also allowing our staff to spend more time with family during our busiest seasons. For our clients, if done right, the audit process can feel less intrusive, and maybe more efficient, as we are able to minimize the number of staff days on site and capture hours traditionally spent in a vehicle. With improvements in technology, we are now able to easily communicate via phone, email and videoconferencing to ask questions, share documents, and perform interviews when necessary. We are also able to use these technologies to assist in verifying inventory measurements and counts in certain (limited) instances as well. Many videoconferencing platforms also allow screen sharing for us to view the same documents with others off-site. We have a secure web-portal for the sharing of documents that has been in use by many of our clients already. This allows us to easily exchange documents in a secure fashion, as email can be viewed as an unsafe way of sharing sensitive information.

We know that the idea of remote auditing is not one-size-fits-all. Our intention is not to take our audits entirely remote (although that may happen in certain cases), but rather perform tasks from our offices that make sense logistically and economically. This will allow us to better utilize and leverage the staff that we currently have in order to be more efficient. As part of our strategic planning this spring (we do it too!), we have discussed some internal goals for moving work from your offices to ours with the goal of increasing our productivity as well as increasing staff retention. Our goals are not lofty, a simple reduction in the number of days on-site, either in total or a reduction in the number of auditors we bring on site, will allow us to reach our targets.

You should expect your engagement partner or manager to be reaching out in the near future to begin the conversation of what the upcoming audit may look like, expectations from our end, and ultimately, approval and a mutual plan of action. I would encourage you to contact your engagement partner or in-charge auditor to begin determining what can be done remotely, what information will need to be exchanged, and most importantly, discuss what other concerns exist regarding remote audit.