Public audit impact of COVID-19 in Scotland
Audit Scotland has published COVID-19: Impact on public audit in Scotland.
This guide sets out the principles of Audit Scotland’s approach and their financial and performance audit programmes. It also outlines their plans for assessing the impact of COVID-19 on public bodies and reviewing the Scottish public sector’s response to the pandemic.
The approach to financial audit reflects the extended accounts deadlines and the considerable uncertainty and volatility in individual bodies’ capacity for reporting and engaging with audit.
The approach to timelines for audit work and reporting will be flexible but audit quality will be maintained and Audit Scotland will work to promote consistency of judgement on complex issues. The information provided in performance and accountability reports will be streamlined but financial statements remain unchanged.
Governance will be a key focus, including the new arrangements put in place by public bodies in response to COVID-19.
Audit Scotland also communicate their future COVID-19 audit work to help Parliament and the public understand how public money has been used during this crisis and ensure lessons are learned for the future.
We recognize and praise the considerable efforts of those in the public sector to manage and respond to the pandemic both on the front-line and in creating support to help organisations through the crisis.
ICAS strongly supports the need to maintain audit quality and governance in these times. To support judgement in complex decisions, we have produced the Professional Judgement Framework which can be used by all those involved in the audit process from preparer to auditor, audit committee and the regulator.
In this guide we stress that it is important to use a principles-based approach to apply sensible auditing judgements. This involves pulling back to affirm the key principles and the true & fair view.
A professional accounting judgement can only be made based on the facts and circumstances available at the time the judgement was made. Ensuring that the basis of judgements is appropriately disclosed and documented is critical.
For regulators assessing the judgement, in view of the level of uncertainty and pace of change their assessment needs to be made in full recognition of the context that preparers and auditors are operating within.
Maintaining robust challenge and scrutiny is an essential element of effective governance, particularly in relation to the use of public finances during times of stress. Sustaining an open and transparent approach in government as well as being able to demonstrate accountability for decisions made is of heightened importance for public bodies.
For more information on the latest COVID-19 developments related to business and practice, visit the ICAS coronavirus hub.