The self-audit guide

The internal audit staff is a highly-trained group that can be employed in a variety of value-added tasks, including advising the managers of business units on many process-related topics. However, doing so means that there will be less time available for the more traditional tasks of reviewing controls.

To ensure that the internal audit staff is employed on the highest-value tasks, it may make sense to shift a portion of the control reviews to the staff of the business units. This does not mean that auditors will no longer engage in control reviews; instead, they can monitor processes with trend analysis and occasional in-depth reviews, and conduct more detailed investigations when a problem is indicated.

Most processes in a business do not involve a great deal of risk, nor is there much chance of a breakdown in controls. In these cases, local staff can be tasked with the conduct of occasional control reviews. Not only does this approach keep lower-skill work away from the internal audit staff, but it also ensures that those people most familiar with the ongoing conduct of business operations are the ones actually conducting review work. The result may actually be an improvement in the quality of audit work.

To ensure that this transfer of work is successful, the internal audit team should create a set of self-audit guides. Each one explains the control objective, notes how controls are used to achieve the objective, and describes the exact steps needed to audit a process. To be fully understandable to someone who is not trained as an auditor, a self-audit guide must describe processes and controls in considerable detail. Also, the guides should not use any arcane accounting terminology that might be confusing. Thus, expect to spend a large amount of time creating and testing these guides to ensure that they can form an effective basis for self-auditing. If implemented successfully, a self-audit program can increase the volume and quality of audit work conducted within a business.