A common question as we have spent the last year working from home and being very cautious about visiting public places, including our own office. How have government agencies handled this transition to work from home?
There is a wide range in what our clients have experienced and what they plan to do going forward. Some of the things we have experienced with our government and school clients meets both extremes. From one aspect, business offices have been closed since March and do not have plans to re-open. Other clients never really shut down and have remained open through the entire pandemic. One thing all clients have in common is there has been a transition to increase the capabilities of working from home.
Businesses have done a great job in taking these changes in stride and allowing some flexibility for their employees. How does this effect the internal processes of business entities? Has your government agency been able to maintain good controls and oversight over daily processes?
More often than not, agencies have been very resourceful in creating password protected documents, email approvals and locked electronic signatures to ensure approvals are still occurring and strong. There has been a strong realization of what can be accomplished through technology.
However, as we operate in a social atmosphere, there is still some value to having real time discussions. Budgeting processes and long-term decision plans over capital or infrastructure items might be hard to accomplish via zoom meetings. There could be a need to meet in person and have these conversations to help expedite the decision-making process.
As your agency assesses the pros and cons of working from home versus in-office, there are some things to consider when you look at controls and management oversight:
- How are performance metrics for employees adapting to the change if there is less direct contact?
- Have your controls been adapted to work-from-home?
- Electronic approvals, e-signatures
- Will you consider a more digital/electronic based approval process, if not already implemented?
- How are approvals documented?
- As auditors, we always want to see documentation.
- Staff training
- Considering a normal office environment provides for that “open door” policy, there may be a need to provide more staff training to ensure individuals are not falling behind.
We have learned to adapt to a new normal. How is your organization adapting? Your auditors are going to want to see how your adaptation to this new environment has affected your internal controls and the risk associated with that. We will be tasked with documenting those risks in our audit documentation, so make sure to document, document, document all that you have done to aid in your audit this year.
If you have any questions, please contact your Henry+Horne advisor.
By Noemi Barter, Supervisor