Audits are grounded in facts. Auditors use audit procedures to confirm those facts. From asking probing questions to inspecting documents to re-performing calculations, audit procedures help auditors issue informed opinions based on evidence. This allows them to give more qualified conclusions as to whether businesses are managing risks properly. Audit procedures vary depending on the organization, how it operates and the objectives of its audit.
Auditors can spot risks and address the causes by knowing what’s normal and honing in on deviations. They may examine the reasonableness of a company’s depreciation, for example, because such expenses should be consistent. They use analytical procedures in planning, testing and an overall review to identify fluctuations and as a basis for applying other procedures.
Asking questions of a company’s accountants, managers and other key staff is a common way for auditors to gather information. Auditors may ask about business processes and how financial transactions are recorded to ensure that the company is guarding against risks. For example, they may ask a business owner how financial records are stored. Auditors will not accept the answers alone as confirmation. But they may use the responses to their inquiries to establish additional testing criteria.
An auditor may verify that records are indeed stored in locked filing cabinets as the company’s representatives said by watching an employee unlock a drawer during their normal activities. They also may watch how an activity is done to see if it poses any risk, like how a clerk collects and counts money.
Counting tangible assets can provide an auditor with evidence of value. An auditor may confirm the amount of a particular piece of equipment or product to determine that their given value corresponds with the company’s assertions, for example.
Checking against written procedures and documents helps auditors determine whether processes are being done correctly and that the information is being recorded accurately. Auditors may verify whether security procedures are being followed and if invoices contain the correct amounts, for example. An auditor may spend most of their time verifying or vouching documents.
An auditor may check whether calculations are done correctly by doing the calculations themselves. For example, they might prepare their own payroll report by calculating the net wages that employees should receive by accounting for the withholdings and deductions. If there are no differences, they may conclude that the payroll reports are being done properly. They also may check whether the information is transferred to accounting records correctly to ensure the integrity of the company’s financial statements.
Jim Molis has more than 20 years of experience writing for and about businesses. He has been a business reporter for the Columbus (Ga.) Ledger-Enquirer, a managing editor of the Atlanta Business Chronicle and an editor of the Jacksonville Business Journal. He also has written for management consultants, professional services firms and numerous publications as a freelancer.