I wanted to draw your attention to an article that recently appeared on CFO.com about continuous auditing, mainly because the topic is one which is as misunderstood as it is trendy.
Continuous auditing is generally held to be an automated approach. Increasingly it is assumed to mean examining all data relevant to the audit being performed, rather than the historical norm of examining supposedly representative samples.
On top of this, the IIA defines it as “any method used to perform audit-related activities on a more continuous or continual basis.”
Rutgers University professor Miklos Vasarhelyi, calls it “an audit that happens immediately after or closely after a particular event.”
The article describes some examples of companies which have attempted to implement continuous auditing. The conclusion one reaches is that no one really audits continuously, but a few companies have managed to put in place some automatic testing using software like ACL that can reduce the work they have to perform on those transactions when they perform their “non-continuous” audits or highlight areas to investigate further.
This, I think, is good enough and valuable in its own right. Letting machines handle the menial tasks and freeing up audit staff to focus on bigger issues is a pattern as old as the industrial revolution.