If you’re an auditor, you’re most likely not the most popular person around, at least in most companies. Unfortunately, auditors are hated (I don’t think that’s too strong a word in some circles) for a number of reasons, as noted below. Fortunately, most of them are avoidable.
- SOX is a waste of time. For most auditees, SOX takes a lot of valuable time away from accomplishing the “real work” of keeping the business running. When you hear this complaint, it usually means one or more of the following is true:
- The complainee doesn’t view the company’s success at the 40,000 foot level, but at his own detailed level. He counts success in terms of widgets instead of intercompany and customer relationships. Fraud usually falls across multiple areas of a company, damaging reputations and profits. All you can do is try to educate him.
- The complainee’s boss doesn’t value the benefits SOX provides. She probably believes that what her department does probably isn’t a material concern and/or the risks are way overblown. Have your boss educate her.
- The controls and testing approach are excessive or are not targeted in the right areas. In other words, auditors are actually wasting time (and shareholder dollars). Sometimes this is due to an overzealous auditor manager or chief audit executive. When this happens, ask, “What’s the risk?” and see if you can’t adjust your audit plan accordingly.
- Audits are poorly planned and executed. I don’t blame auditees for getting angry when the following occur:
- Testing of payroll is scheduled for December and January. Never mind those year-end bonuses, tax changes, and W2 forms that need to be processed.
- Auditors fail to remember and document the knowledge gained in the previous audit — they expect the auditees to explain everything and the reasons behind it every year. All you need to do is understand any changes or new items.
- Auditors don’t apply their grey matter to the evidential matter before they meet with control owners for clarification. Or they fail to think through their data request and consequently go back to the well too many times.
- Auditors act like their work is THE work. Some auditors forget that if the business can’t get their own work done, no audit will be necessary. Auditors serve the business, not the other way around, charter or no audit charter.
- Auditors enjoy finding problems. Identifying issues is part of the job, but auditors shouldn’t glory in weaknesses. Instead, they should put their energy into the solutions. How auditees react to problems depends a lot on the auditor attitude.
An audit is a little like an annual physical: a bit uncomfortable, sometimes embarrassing, but comforting in the knowledge that it’s good for you, and that it is often a good way to avoid worse problems down the road.
If only more auditors employed better bedside manners.
See also Top 10 Ways to be a Lovable Auditor