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Tax & AccountingFinanceComplianceMarch 30, 2020

COVID-19 vs Internal Audit20

I am not saying anything new when I state that the COVID-19 virus has had a drastic impact on people, companies, and society at large. As an Internal Audit Director working for Wolters Kluwer, a large multinational company that’s also a TeamMate+ customer, me and my team are, like everyone, working in manner and in a world that 3 weeks ago was almost unthinkable.

And like everyone else, we face the uncertainty of not knowing how this situation will develop.

Unlike everyone else, as Internal Auditors, we are professionals trained in identifying and reacting to risk.

So how have we responded?

At first, we took several “reactive” measures including:

  • Reviewing our short-term audit plan - We looked at the audit plan over the coming few months and postponed several audits requiring travel, initially identified to high risk locations, and subsequently to all locations, and we brought forward a number of audits that could be executed remotely.
  • Addressing the backlog – Like many audit functions, we are continually planning upcoming audits, working on existing audits, and finalizing past audits. The small pause in audit execution has given us the opportunity to ensure the small but important finalization aspects of our audits are being completed. Our audit files have never looked better!
  • Training, training, and training – Similarly, we no longer feel like we are playing the endless CPE catch-up game. Many members of the department have managed to partake in webinars, e-learnings, and other training activities.

Reacting is all good and well, but faced with the possibility that this situation may continue for some time means we need to start being proactive, and consequently we are:

  • Factoring COVID-19 related risks into our existing audits – Things are not normal, people are scared, and bad-actors may attempt to capitalize on this situation at our organization’s expense. As a result, we are endeavoring to address these risks in our ongoing audits ensuring, for example, there is heightened awareness around phishing attempts, appropriate controls are in place around physical assets, especially work-from-home related devices, etc.
  • Performing a risk assessment refresh – Our 2020 annual plan is derived from a risk assessment that was, like all businesses, created pre-pandemic and should be revisited. We are taking this opportunity to review the risk assessment factoring in risks that the COVID situation has introduced or affected, potentially resulting in changes to our annual plan for the remainder of the year to ensure we deliver value to the organization in light of new and evolving circumstances.
  • Offering our services to our incident management team – We are in continual contact with our incident management group exploring the need and possibility of Internal Audit team members bolstering their resources as well as inquiring into their assurance and consulting needs.
  • Keeping informed – Given the fluidity of the situation, all members of the audit team have been encouraged to keep informed about developments affecting them both personally, and our organization.
  • Regular internal communications – In order to maximize information dissemination within the audit function, and to ensure our people are working as efficiently and effectively as possible we have scheduled a weekly department wide video call and encouraged all line managers to have virtual one-on-one’s several times a week.

The value of assurance in these times of increased uncertainty is greater than ever.

Oh, and we are all washing our hands more often.

Wolters Kluwer has been providing public statement updates to keep customers and other stakeholders up-to-date and will continue to do so. Updates can be found here.

View Webinar: Auditing in a COVID-19 World

Marc Lansdown
Director, Internal Audit
Marc joined Wolters Kluwer in 2009 and is currently Director of Internal Audit (Europe and ROW), based out of Alphen aan den Rijn. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Commerce from the University of Sydney and is a Chartered Accountant.