Where Were the Best Practices?

BY THOMAS P. HOUCK

I believe the JofA did its readers a disservice by using a misleading title on a recent article, “Best Practices for Audit Efficiency” (Sept.00, page 65).

Best practices were largely absent. Instead, the article focused on basic and “low-hanging fruit” ideas that have been practiced for many years. Also, a few peculiar recommendations were included, such as “sending confirmations” and “preparing lead schedules.”

Based on the article’s title, I expected to read about new ways to test controls or innovative analytical procedures. Instead, control testing was not mentioned, and the areas identified that could be addressed analytically were basic and obvious.

I was also surprised at the omission of best practices involving technology. Why weren’t the exciting ways in which data extraction software is being used discussed? Or how auditors are using the Internet to create stronger analytical procedures? Or how financial statements and tax returns are being linked seamlessly with trial balance software? Or how local firms are using paperless audit packages? Instead, the only recommendation was to “use laptops and even portable printers to facilitate efficiency in the field.”

Finally, the story ignored a very important best practice—changing a firm’s culture so that auditors are always searching for more efficient ways to accomplish their objectives, rather than simply following last year’s workpapers. Unless a firm is very small, this is a critical issue that must be addressed to achieve significant efficiency gains.

Although this article appeared in September 2000, it would have been more appropriate in the September 1990 issue. It’s too bad the JofA failed to conduct research that would identify the real best practices auditors are implementing right now.

Thomas P. Houck, CPA
President
AuditWatch, Inc.
Herndon, Virginia

Letters to the Editor

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