A no-surprises audit: keeping the lines of communication open is critical to a successful audit engagement.

Author:Swafford, Michael

EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATION IS THE lifeblood of a successful auditor-client relationship. Without it, clients not only receive an inferior audit, but they may suspect that secrecy is part of the internal audit process. And for some, this concern can lead to a feeling of surprise, or of being personally attacked.

Of course, internal auditors do not look to attack clients, spy on their department, or send top - secret missives to organizational management. In most cases, such beliefs simply constitute a misunderstanding of the purpose of internal auditing and the work it performs. To combat these perceptions, internal auditors need to practice effective communication and assure clients that they will not encounter any surprises. While a visit from the auditors may often be unannounced, their work, process, and results should be fully disclosed and transparent.

Equally important, internal auditing needs to avoid any surprises from the client, as these could lead to scope adjustment, an increase in the time budget, or a complete reevaluation of the entity's risk profile. Communication before, during, and after an audit, as well as during non - audit periods, is vital to keeping surprises to a minimum.


Internal auditors should contact management before the engagement begins and explains how the audit process works. They also should take time to understand any limitations or constraints the client may face, such as extremely busy times during the day, important deadlines, business travel, scheduled vacations, or other significant factors that could impact the client's ability to participate in the audit.

After these "ground rules" are established, internal auditing should explain why the entity was selected for an audit, review the scope of the audit, and discuss what to expect during the audit process. The internal auditors can communicate this information via the company "intranet, e-mail, or other methods of delivery, and they should encourage the organization's managers to share it with all of their employees. Keeping everyone informed can go a long way toward reducing the amount of stress employees experience while the audit is in progress.


Once the audit is underway, communication should be regular and consistent. And similar to information shared before the engagement, all client personnel should be kept in the loop. Ongoing communication, delivered with the correct style and approach, decreases the likelihood...

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