FRC highlights step change in use of technology to improve efficiency and quality of audits

The Financial Reporting Council (FRC) has highlighted the step change in the increased use of technology in the audit industry to improve the efficiency and quality of audits.

The FRC found that the use of automated tools for audit such as data analytics has grown dramatically in the last three years and if used appropriately can improve audit quality.

A new report from the council has highlighted that audit firms have invested considerably in the infrastructure required to efficiently capture, collate and organise data.

Auditors are however dependent on whether companies have a robust IT infrastructure that allows data to be extracted in a useable form to challenge management.

The FRC’s report follows up a review in 2017 which highlighted that the use of data analytics for audit was not as prevalent then as the market might have expected. Three years on and there has been a step-change, with data-led audits more prevalent and the use of technology being routine at the largest UK audit firms.

The FRC also found that emerging technologies such as machine learning and predictive analysis, although in their infancy, can help to identify unusual transactions or challenge judgements around going concern or impairment that would not otherwise be found by a human auditor.

The FRC encourages the audit firms to continue to develop their technologies in these areas to seek further improvements in audit quality.

A closer analysis of audit inspections also revealed:

  • The most prevalent use of audit data analytics (ADA) beyond journals is in high volume, low judgement transactions such as revenue testing
  • Audit teams use ADA to focus audit testing on the areas of highest risk through stratification of large populations
  • In response to audit inspection findings, audit teams have improved their documentation and evidence supporting the use of ADA
  • Automated tools are deployed with sufficient training and support

David Rule, the FRC’s executive director of suspension, said: “Technology provides opportunities to deter fraud and the manipulation of accounts by analysing entire populations of data and identifying unusual transactions. We support wider use of audit data analytics. We are looking to the market to continue to develop innovative solutions and are now consulting stakeholders to inform our policy for the future of audit technology.”

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