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The general definition of an audit is an evaluation of a person, organization, system, process, enterprise, project or product. The term most commonly refers to audits in accounting, but similar concepts also exist in project management, quality management, and energy conservation.
Audits are performed to ascertain the validity and reliability of information; also to provide an assessment of a system's internal control. The goal of an audit is to express an opinion of the person / organization / system (etc.) in question, under evaluation based on work done on a test basis.
Due to constraints, an audit seeks to provide only reasonable assurance that the statements are free from material error. Hence, statistical sampling is often adopted in audits. In the case of financial audits, a set of financial statements are said to be true and fair when they are free of material misstatements - a concept influenced by both quantitative (numerical) and qualitative factors.But recently, argument that auditing should go beyond just True and fair is gaining momentum. And PCAOB has came out with a concept release on the same.
Auditing is a vital part of accounting. Traditionally, audits were mainly associated with gaining information about financial systems and the financial records of a company or a business (see financial audit). However, recent auditing has begun to include non-financial subject areas, such as safety, security, information systems performance, and environmental concerns. With nonprofit organizations and government agencies, there has been an increasing need for performance audits, examining their success in satisfying mission objectives. As a result, there are now audit professionals who specialize in security audits, information systems audits, and environmental audits.
In cost accounting, it is a process for verifying the cost of manufacturing or producing of any article, on the basis of accounts measuring the use of material, labour or other items of cost. In simple words the term, cost audit, means a systematic and accurate verification of the cost accounts and records, and checking for adherence to the cost accounting objectives. According to the Institute of Cost and Management Accountants of Pakistan, a cost audit is "an examination of cost accounting records and verification of facts to ascertain that the cost of the product has been arrived at, in accordance with principles of cost accounting."
An audit must adhere to generally accepted standards established by governing bodies. These standards assure third parties or external users that they can rely upon the auditor's opinion on the fairness of financial statements, or other subjects on which the auditor expresses an opinion.
The Definition for Audit and Assurance Standard AAS-1 by the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India(ICAI) - "Auditing is the independent examination of financial information of any entity, whether profit oriented or not, and irrespective of its size or legal form, when such an examination is conducted with a view to expressing an opinion thereon."
In the US, audits of publicly traded companies are governed by rules laid down by the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB), which was established by Section 404 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002. Such an audit is called an integrated audit, where auditors, in addition to an opinion on the financial statements, must also express an opinion on the effectiveness of a company's internal control over financial reporting, in accordance with PCAOB Auditing Standard No. 5.
There are also new types of integrated auditing becoming available that use unified compliance material (see the unified compliance section in Regulatory compliance). Due to the increasing number of regulations and need for operational transparency, organizations are adopting risk-based audits that can cover multiple regulations and standards from a single audit event. This is a very new but necessary approach in some sectors to ensure that all the necessary governance requirements can be met without duplicating effort from both audit and audit hosting resources.
The purpose of an assessment is to measure something or calculate a value for it. Although the process producing an assessment may involve an audit by an independent professional, its purpose is to provide a measurement rather than to express an opinion about the fairness of statements or quality of performance.
As a general rule, audits should always be an independent evaluation that will include some degree of quantitative and qualitative analysis whereas an assessment infers a less independent and more consultative approach.
Auditors of financial statements can be classified into two categories:
- External auditor / Statutory auditor is an independent Public accounting firm engaged by the client subject to the audit, to express an opinion on whether the company's financial statements are free of material misstatements, whether due to fraud or error. For publicly-traded companies, external auditors may also be required to express an opinion over the effectiveness of internal controls over financial reporting. External auditors may also be engaged to perform other agreed-upon procedures, related or unrelated to financial statements. Most importantly, external auditors, though engaged and paid by the company being audited, are regarded as independent auditors.
The most used external audit standards are the US GAAS of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants; and the ISA International Standards on Auditing developed by the International Auditing and Assurance Standards Board of the International Federation of Accountants
- Internal auditors are employed by the organization they audit. They perform various audit procedures, primarily related to procedures over the effectiveness of the company's internal controls over financial reporting. Due to the requirement of Section 404 of the Sarbanes Oxley Act of 2002 for management to also assess the effectiveness of their internal controls over financial reporting (as also required of the external auditor), internal auditors are utilized to make this assessment. Though internal auditors are not considered independent of the company they perform audit procedures for, internal auditors of publicly-traded companies are required to report directly to the board of directors, or a sub-committee of the board of directors, and not to management, so to reduce the risk that internal auditors will be pressured to produce favorable assessments.
The most used Internal Audit standards are those of the Institute of Internal Auditors
- Consultant auditors are external personnel contracted by the firm to perform an audit following the firm's auditing standards. This differs from the external auditor, who follows their own auditing standards. The level of independence is therefore somewhere between the internal auditor and the external auditor. The consultant auditor may work independently, or as part of the audit team that includes internal auditors. Consultant auditors are used when the firm lacks sufficient expertise to audit certain areas, or simply for staff augmentation when staff are not available.
- Quality auditors may be consultants or employed by the organization.
Quality audits are performed to verify conformance to standards through review of objective evidence. A system of quality audits may verify the effectiveness of a quality management system. This is part of certifications such as ISO 9001. Quality audits are essential to verify the existence of objective evidence showing conformance to required processes, to assess how successfully processes have been implemented, for judging the effectiveness of achieving any defined target levels, providing evidence concerning reduction and elimination of problem areas and are a hands-on management tool for achieving continual improvement in an organization.
To benefit the organization, quality auditing should not only report non-conformance and corrective actions but also highlight areas of good practice and provide evidence of conformance. In this way, other departments may share information and amend their working practices as a result, also enhancing continual improvement.
Projects can undergo 2 types of audits:
- Regular Health Check Audits: The aim of a regular health check audit is to understand the current state of a project in order to increase project success.
- Regulatory Audits: The aim of a regulatory audit is to verify that a project is compliant with regulations and standards. Best practices of NEMEA Compliance Center describe that, the regulatory audit must be accurate, objective, and independent while providing oversight and assurance to the organization.
An energy audit is an inspection, survey and analysis of energy flows for energy conservation in a building, process or system to reduce the amount of energy input into the system without negatively affecting the output(s).
- Big Four auditors
- Comptroller, Comptroller General, and Comptroller General of the United States
- Continuous auditing
- COSO framework, Risk management
- Field work
- Financial audit, External auditor, Certified Public Accountant (CPA), and Audit risk
- Green Globe
- Independent review
- Information technology audit, Information technology audit process, History of information technology auditing, and Auditing information security
- Internal audit
- INTOSAI (International Organization of Supreme Audit Institutions)
- Lead Auditor, under the Chief Audit Executive, or Director of Audit
- Quality audit
- ^ McKenna, Francine. "Auditors and Audit Reports: Is The Firm’s "John Hancock" Enough?". Forbes. http://blogs.forbes.com/francinemckenna/2011/07/08/auditors-and-audit-reports-is-the-firms-john-hancock-enough/. Retrieved 22 July 2011.
- ^ "CONCEPT RELEASE ON POSSIBLE REVISIONS TO PCAOB STANDARDS RELATED TO REPORTS ON AUDITED FINANCIAL STATEMENTS". http://pcaobus.org/Rules/Rulemaking/Docket034/Concept_Release.pdf. Retrieved 22 July 2011.
- ^ Cutting, Thomas (January 12, 2008). "How to Survive an Audit". PM Hut. http://www.pmhut.com/how-to-survive-an-audit. Retrieved December 13, 2009.
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