The impact of COVID-19 continues, but it is important that is does not undermine the delivery of high-quality audits. For auditors of international groups of companies there is an added challenge of different locations and jurisdictions.
In an international group there may be a significant subsidiary company in a different country audited by a different firm of auditors. How will the group auditor satisfy themselves on the competency and work undertaken by the subsidiary auditor? In the past local site visits to the subsidiary company and auditor have provided a solution. This has enabled the group auditor to review key audit working papers and attend closing meetings with local management. With COVID-19 that is no longer an option, or at least unlikely. Where does this leave the group auditor? How can they continue to provide a quality audit service?
For many the answer lies with technology. The speed which businesses have embraced technology and new ways of working together is unprecedented during COVID-19. Each individual group audit needs to be considered on a case by case basis, but technology can provide the means to overcome geographical restrictions.
Emails and conference calls are a norm in business, but they are limited. Zoom style video conferencing and screen sharing provides a greater opportunity for the group and subsidiary auditor. Electronic documents can be shared on screen, discussed and questions answered. Each member of the group and subsidiary team can contribute and answer questions where needed. Cloud-based portals allow files to be shared and information exchanged securely. With more finance systems becoming cloud based it is even possible for management to provide information directly to the group auditor for testing.
With the ongoing digital transformation of business, I have no doubt that new and even better ways will be developed to work together and overcome geographical restrictions. That should provide even better means to overcome location-based challenges such as COVID-19.