One of the most Overused and Unnecessary Phrases in Audit Reports

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Have you ever read an audit report that contained issues that seemed to ramble on forever with no clear thought process or unnecessary language that expands a simple item into a small booklet? Why do some auditors do this?

The distribution list for audit reports can be broad and diverse.  As a result auditors are expected to deliver information clearly, concisely and timely.  It is important to reduce and/or eliminate redundant and non value added language from audit communications.

This article discusses one non essential audit report phrase..  It is my hope that you all add to this list.

So here it is:

1. The auditors noted

And with honorable mention, it’s not so distant cousin

2. We discovered

These two items are completely unnecessary in audit reports.

Let’s take ”The Auditors noted”. Well, it is your audit report. Your name is on the cover page.  Why do You need to tell me again in every reportable item?

Similarly, ”We Discovered” is unnecessary.  Auditors are not explorers, you did not discover anything. Besides, this is not a  sporting competition where you received points for detecting risk and control break downs. It is an Audit.  The ultimate goal is to evaluate and improve risk management strategies. So stop keeping score.  And though this is really not what you’re doing, that’s what it feels like to your clients.

There you have it.  Two phrases that can be eliminated from audit reports.

Now it’s your turn.  What are some unnecessary items you currently see in audit reports?

Robert Berry

Robert (That Audit Guy) Berry is a risk, compliance and auditing advocate, educator and innovator. He helps good professionals become better by creating articles, web services and training that allow them to expand their knowledge network.

Robert Berry

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Robert Berry

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By | 2017-10-15T05:12:22+00:00 January 30th, 2013|Audit Practices, Blog, Communication|16 Comments

16 Comments

  1. Uttia Majumdar January 30, 2013 at 3:46 am

    “During the audit it was observed that……..” is also unnecessary. The auditor is writing an audit report, therefore he/she need not mention this all the time throughout the report.

    • Ramesh Kumar Wahi February 6, 2013 at 9:21 am

      Ideally the first page of the Audit Report should give a brief summary of findings / observations made by the auditor with recommendations for corrective actions which may require attention of the senior management so that the senior management doesn’t have to go thru the entire encyclopedia.
      This is true that these are the most common phrases used in the audit reports and generally form the part of detailed audit report. However the same can be subsituted n the Auditor can also state that ” we carried out the audit / review of ……. unit / activity and observed following errors / lapses in our samples selected for the period……… bla bla”. Thereafter list the Unit / Activity within brackets with no of samples selected / period of review to give a fair view of Audit to all concerned.

  2. Robert Berry January 30, 2013 at 4:31 am

    Uttia. Agreed. Another overused phrase.

  3. JeanLouis Vergaert February 4, 2013 at 10:50 am

    Here is a problem:
    I can say:
    “There was an error of XXX”. Easy and short, and I can focus on the cause of that error.
    Now, I did not find that error by chance: I do a lot of testing. I am not sure that the Management (local or Senior) want to know the extent of the testing. I could further expand:
    “I reviewed 40 transactions” or “I did an extensive CAAT review”.
    Guess what: there is ALWAYS someone who comes asking me “did you find any other error”.
    I want to explode: “Of course NO… If I had found more errors, I would have explained it”.
    But the comment always comes: “I think it is better to say that you did not find any other issue”.
    So my short version is “There was that error, the cause was…”.
    And the long, pedantic version: “I performed an extensive Computerized Review, found that error, the cause was…. My CAAT testing did not highlight any other error”.
    Frustrating.

  4. Rick Fowler February 5, 2013 at 8:50 am

    I have always relied on the “5 Cs” for reporting: Condition, Criteria, Cause, Consequence, and Correction. Each issue can be fully explained in 5 sentences or less. No embellishments are needed, and no details of the test work are necessary — the auditee doesn’t care and audit management already knows — and everyone prefers a short report to an encyclopedia.

    To JeanLouis, I would be very careful about saying anything about other errors. Just because your testing did not uncovery another error does not mean that there are no other errors, and you don’t want to give management a false impression.

    • Robert Berry February 5, 2013 at 9:56 am

      Rick. Agreed. About 5 sentences or less. I’ve been rethinking the 5 Cs lately and now use a modified approach. More on that later.

  5. Ben D. Gibson, CIA, CGAP, MS February 11, 2013 at 9:12 am

    Robert,

    Certainly you are “spot on” with the banality, triteness, and unnecessary usage of those phrases (I call such phrases “filler”), but I take one exception with your article: When you say “Auditors are not explorers, you did not discover anything.” . . . , that most certainly isn’t true when it comes to Operational Auditing (or even program audits) where it is important to report on “what is done” as well as “what isn’t done” — which can take some exploring.

    • Robert Berry February 11, 2013 at 10:04 am

      Good point Ben. I agree auditing does indeed require some exploration. But I would hesitate to liken auditing to an explorers mentality. Let me clarify that statement. True explorers are typically on a definitive mission to find something. Whereas auditors want to determine the condition of the environment to provide stakeholders with “reasonable assurance” that risks are appropriately identified and mitigated. The explorer mentality is one that believes something exists and attempts to find it (usually by any means necessary…think Christopher Columbus, Cortez, etc). Auditing requires some exploration techniques, but fully adopting an explorer’s mentality jeopardized independence. Now ofcourse that’s just my opnion. But I do agree that auditing requires some exploration.

  6. Bill Grieshober February 11, 2013 at 10:14 am

    Robert,
    I agree with all of the above. I would like to add the term “it appears” to the list. It doesn’t appear; it either is, or it isn’t. Pretty simple.

    • Eric Read February 11, 2013 at 2:16 pm

      I’m not so sure I agree with the premise of this article. It is important to provide a narrative of the audit process, the methodology used to make an opinion, and qualifiers for what the auditor discovered during testing and what was self-reported by the organization under audit. Both of the phrases quoted in the original article, if not overused, can better provide a tie back between the findings and the process used to provide completeness and accuracy of the findings. However, I do believe this is a very good point of discussion. My thanks to all.

  7. Anthony O'Reilly February 27, 2013 at 9:53 am

    I believe we lose the thread when we get into details. While I do agree that simple choice of words make a huge difference, too many audit reports focus on detail rather than message. Lower-level auditees want detail, the Executive Committee want the message and they do not have time to wait around for it. A message with the right facts is also a message well delivered. So, my point is that we need to think carefully about the message at the Executive level and work backwards from there. All this, despite the fact that audit reports are written “bottom up” because that is how we run the clearance process. So, its not easy but for those who master this skill, the rewards lie in credibility at the top table.

  8. Deb March 19, 2013 at 7:39 am

    My own (short) list of other phrases (and yes, these are from actual draft reports!):
    – During the course of…
    – As a result of it….
    – In case of…
    – As regards/Pertaining to…
    – as well as…
    – both… and … … (something like ‘got married…’ – question is, could the man get married without the woman?)

  9. Nazzy July 31, 2013 at 12:05 am

    “Audit is felt warranted… “Audit deemed to be warranted…”

    I see it used a lot but, DUH…of course its warranted, thats why the audit was handed to you to do!I prefer to use phrases like “further analysis is required…” Or “further analysis is necessary to verify…blah blah”

  10. Tendai January 29, 2014 at 2:44 am

    Great article and comments as well. I would like to ask though, what words or phrases should we be using instead of the ones mentioned above. I know at our company, we encourage plain English, and would appreciate examples of words we can use to replace these unnecessary phrases (if any). Thanks.

  11. Robert Berry January 31, 2014 at 6:14 am

    Tendai. I’m not sure if there is a replacement for the phrases mentioned so far. These are items that add no real value and should be removed altogether. For example, the auditors noted is completely unnecessary. The alternative is to simply state the issue.

    So instead of saying, “The audit noted that account reconciliations are not completed timely”. You would say, “Account reconciliations are not……”.

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