Minding the Numbers: The Audit Committee in VS .NET

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Minding the Numbers: The Audit Committee
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for any process But if the process changes, that segregation may be lost Likewise, if a supervisor with unique and specific knowledge about a particular operation is no longer available, the approval function may become compromised Changes to systems can also unintentionally alter or eliminate controls A well-designed change-control testing program will validate that controls are operating before the change is migrated into production Under such a program, no changes can be made to an active system without testing on a separate test server And then, the migration of new code into production is closely supervised The audit committee should require that managers document all changes to key processes, people, and systems since the last certification This should include an evaluation of the impact of the change on the control structure For instance, was the change planned Does the change impact who performs the custody, recording, and approval functions Is there still an independent reconciliation done to ensure all is operating as intended Were replacement personnel identified and trained prior to the change or after How does the manager know that controls are still operating Has process documentation been updated These and similar inquiries will help the CEO and the audit committee gauge how well the transition was managed and the risk that controls have been compromised
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Step 3: Require Managers to Sign Off on Their Financial Statements as Accurate Requiring that managers at all levels to approve periodic financial reports for their area of responsibility is a simple but powerful tool Rather than relying solely on financial personal to determine if everything is booked appropriately, why not include the analytical eye of those that run these businesses By requiring ownership of items booked to their area of influence, managers take a closer look at what is there and ensure that it appears correct The CEO should make it clear that he or she holds each manager responsible for the content of their financials Their signature represents ownership and accountability
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76 Step 4: Identify and Evaluate Material Nonroutine Processes
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Financial systems normally handle a high volume of transactions from multiple sources, which must be captured, classified, and reported Distinguishing between routine transactions and nonroutine transactions or estimates can help a CFO, CEO, and audit committee focus on those areas that are at greater risk for error Controls over these types of transactions are typically less formal More care needs to be given to the nonroutine and estimation transaction control structure Not only should the sources of data be mapped and evaluated, but assumptions, models, and advisors used to develop the estimates should be challenged and the results documented Have the financial team develop a list of nonroutine sources of material information Understand the sources of this information, whether assumptions are aggressive or conservative, and if derived from a spreadsheet or other model, ensure a qualified person independent from the model s operator has reviewed it from a technological and data quality standpoint
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Step 5: Support Strong Internal Audit and Control Self-Assessment Functions The role of the internal audit department became more important with the passage of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act Organizations can no longer afford weak audit functions The audit committee should play a key role in hiring, evaluating, and if necessary, replacing the Chief Audit Executive (CAE) While there is a clear trend to have the CAE report to the audit committee, many still report directly to the CFO Unfortunately, CFOs have been at the center of the largest financial reporting frauds They can be deeply conflicted regarding the CAE s opinion regarding the status of financial reporting controls Best practice would leave oversight of the internal audit department to the audit committee, and if an administrative reporting line is needed, it should be to the CEO Internal audit departments can add comfort regarding the competency of the control environment by independently performing risk analysis, control testing, and corroborating much of the information
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