Leveraging Technology

The Asian Organisation of Supreme Audit Institutions (ASOSAI) is one of the regional working groups that are part of the International Organisation of Supreme Audit Institutions.

In this last week the 6th ASOSAI Symposium was held in Kuala Lumpur and the Australian Auditor General, Ian McPhee, presented a very interesting paper on “Leveraging Technology to Enhance Audit Quality and Effectiveness”.

The speech should be read by all Heads of Audit (and Auditors General!) who seek to unceasingly improve the quality and effectiveness of their deliverables.

McPhee noted as context:

When looking back over the last decade or two of audit, we can see the general direction for information gathering, processing, and analysis has taken a quantum leap, largely benefitting from advances in information and communication technology (ICT). The audit objectives however do not change with the introduction of computers.

The ever increasing challenges to maintain high levels of audit quality and cost effective operations require us to adopt a strategy that is agile and robust in supporting and optimising audit execution in a seamless fashion.

In terms of audit process automation:

In preparing audit evidence, electronic format is preferable over print copies because it is cheaper to move, process and store, and is easier to share, review and check.

As to how the Australian National Audit Office interfaces with its end consumer – the taxpayer:

Our main electronic channel for external facing information dissemination is the ANAO website. In responding to the steady shift from requests for paper print audit reports to self‐serve access of the electronic version, and also the increasing citizen contributions to our performance audits, we are currently implementing a project to transform our internet website (www.anao.gov.au) to a more interactive and user friendly design. We are also using twitter to publicise the release of our reports and we have increased our twitter follower population base from 300 to 1400 in the last 18 months.

McPhee’s commentary on data analytics is timely:

Data analytics has a wide range of involvement in our audits. In some audits, data analysis is used as a method to supplement our traditional analysis, whilst in other audits it is critical to providing evidence to support the overall audit outcomes.

Effective use of data analytics results in a more focused audit that can pinpoint the specific areas of risk, foster dynamic audit planning and execution that provides a better balance of controls analysis and transactional analytics based on the underlying risks.

And he touches on an issue that will transform what the current audit report looks:

A by‐product from data analytics is audit report presentation. It can assist us to communicate messages to audiences in a more intuitive way – through effective visualisation of our audit findings – graphs and charts. We can now link our analysis results to publicly available information, for example geospatial databases, to provide audit audiences a graphic image of our audit findings in relation to demography or locations of government services.

His final observation is to not be overawed by the technology:

As we focus on the transformative new information technology solutions and its tremendous, high‐ speed changes, we also understand its impact on the human element—because all data, tools and strategic plans are only as good as the people who use and implement these tools.

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