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Steps to Conducting Virtual Audits in a Post-COVID World

30 Jun 2020 1:30 PM | Anonymous

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed many aspects of our lives, and the way we conduct our nonprofit’s audit is no exception. As the world moves into a new era of social distancing, stay-at-home orders, and teleworking, having auditors present in the office is becoming an unnecessary step in the audit process as organizations attempt to limit the number of people gathering in the office.

Given this, many nonprofits are expected to start participating in virtual audits – ones that rely heavily on technology and no longer on paper documents and files.  To help you prepare for this transition, consider the following as you review and/or upgrade your office infrastructure:

  1. Move your organization to a paperless environment. Save files and audit support documents electronically.  Consider using either a cloud-based storage solution or, if this is not possible, saving files on a network accessible to staff outside the office.
  2. Look into using online payroll and timekeeping systems.  If your organization is still completing paper timesheets, consider upgrading to an online platform that will allow staff to complete these electronically and enable electronic time-off requests.  In addition, make sure managers are trained on the process for approving timesheets and time-off requests and the required deadlines.
  3. Consider an accounting software that is cloud-based and allows access outside the office.  If your software is currently on your organization’s network, make sure staff have remote access to it.  
  4. Think about moving your organization to an online bill payment system.  Not only will this allow your organization to move to ePayments and eliminate the need for check cutting, it will also help serve as an online file storage solution.  If your organization is already using an online bill payment system, consider giving your auditors read-only access to the system.  
  5. Select a video conferencing software or VOIP system that can be deployed organization-wide.  These systems will become essential in the virtual audit process by helping prevent misunderstandings and, given the tendency for people to misinterpret emails, facilitate the right communication needed for a successful audit.
  6. Look into using software that allows for electronic signatures.  This will help ensure documents are signed even if staff no longer have access to printers and scanning machines.
  7. If staff are filling out paper expense reports and submitting receipts, consider transitioning to an online expense reporting system that allows staff to simply take and upload photos of receipts.  And, once deployed, provide the auditors with read-only access to the system so that they can easily review the receipts remotely.  
Moving to a virtual audit and a teleworking world shouldn’t mean your nonprofit cannot complete your annual audit on-time, but it might require some system upgrades – all of which will pay off both now and in the future. As always, be sure to work with your auditors to address other areas that can help ensure a successful virtual audit.

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