Remote Auditing

Remote Auditing

19011:2018 defines Audit as a systematic, independent, and documented process for obtaining audit evidence and evaluating it objectively to determine the extent to which audit criteria are fulfilled. 

A remote audit also known as E-audit refers to the use of ICT to gather audit evidence where the “face-to-face” method is not possible or desirable. This is basically conducting audits from a location other than being physically available at the auditee’s premises. 

Remote audits are becoming the norm thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic. Other reasons that might make an organization opt for remote audits include; financial constraints – when it comes to involving experts, travel bans, safety constraints, and preference over physical audits.

Before settling for a remote audit, all the interested parties must consider its feasibility in attaining the set audit objectives. In addition to that, each person involved in the audit should be aware of the roles they have to play in order to make the audit successful. The risks and opportunities that present themselves must be critically analyzed. 

ICT being the main infrastructure in remote audits, there are pertinent questions that need to be asked, i.e, 

  1. Are the required resources available? i.e. computers, tablets, phones, etc
  2. Do the parties involved have a stable internet connection? A weak bandwidth can slow the process significantly making the whole process inefficient. 
  3. How secure is the connection? Data protection is critical. Confidentiality and security issues should be discussed way before the audit commences. 
  4. Knowledge and skill? Do both teams, auditors and auditees, have the necessary competence for the execution of the audit? 

Advantages of Remote audit

When prepared, validated, and used properly, remote audits present countless advantages. Examples

  1. It makes it easy to access a wide range of information and data – Depending on how you agree to access clients information, you can have unlimited access to data from which you draw your sample.
  2. Remote audits provide flexibility to achieving the audit objectives- The timelines for the audit can be adjusted accordingly until the objectives are met. The auditor can ask for more evidence way after the audit time has lapsed. 
  3. Shortens distances. ICT makes the world a global village. Someone in German auditing a power plant project in Kenya and another one in Korea on the same day. 
  4. Saves on travel costs and time. This can enable an organization to involve an expert for up to four hours without having to cater to their transport cost. The expert on the other hand gets to be involved in different projects saving on time. 
  5. Increases both the size and quality of sample size – When properly utilized, remote audits can facilitate the auditor to have access to a bigger sample than the physical audits. 
  6. Ease of accessibility to remote areas. It makes it easy to audit many sites within a short time especially for multi-site clients

Disadvantages 

A remote audit cannot be termed as a walk in the park as there are risks and limitations or challenges which can be encountered;

  1. Security issues – data protection and confidentiality issues may arise during the audit process. Some of the platforms used during an audit may be compromised and the client’s information is lost or copied. 
  2. The veracity of the evidence collected – When getting video evidence, the auditee could be showing a video that was recorded a long time ago. One might not be getting the actual situation on the ground. The auditor might be guided on selected images for a different site
  3. Internet disruption – there are some unforeseen interruptions that may occur during audits such as internet disruption due to power outage. This may be on either team’s side. 

Remote audits are here to stay. As a matter of fact, ISO 19011:2018 Annex A1 lists remote audit as one of the audit methods. Besides, International Accreditation Forum and ISO published ISO 9001 Auditing Practices Group Guidance on: REMOTE AUDITS

Before embracing it as an audit method, an organization needs to be certain beyond doubt that the stipulated audit objectives can be achieved. The risks and opportunities posed by remote auditing need to be critically analyzed and decision criteria for accepting or rejecting this method made. 

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