I will never forget the advice of our college English teacher who said, “It’s not what you say but how you say it matters.” Of course his statement was somewhat exaggerated, but one thing is certain: the way of saying things makes all the difference. A well-written audit report should inspire action, while a poor audit report may not only prompt inappropriate action but also take no action. In some cases, a poorly written report can undermine professional relationships or seriously damage the auditor’s reputation. Small things can be very meaningful, and sometimes
Internal Audit Report – Things to Consider
Recently, I began to draw up my own list, and then consulted with several groups of listeners to find out which words or phrases should never be used in audit reports. I even used my friend, Sally Cutler, an internal audit report writing advisor. I collected a lot of opinions. And some suggestions were really worth taking up. Here is my new list of “10 Things to Say in an Internal Audit Report”.
Do not say “Management should consider “
An audit report must include concrete recommendations on specific actions. When we simply recommend considering something, even a very strong call to take action becomes nebulous. No listener wants to be told by management: “thank you, we will think about it”.
Avoid making words that are too vague
It is tempting to use expressions such as “it seems like” or “we feel like” or “apparently exists”. It may seem reassuring to avoid being too specific, but to use too much of these expressions that serve to protect you, especially when they are used in the same sentence, you may not be able to support the facts well. Readers of a report need to know that they can rely on the factual information we provide them, so excessive use of fuzzy vocabulary puts your concrete recommendations to speculation.
Use intensifying adverbs sparingly
Because they reinforce the purpose, adverbs such as “clearly”, “especially”, “good” or “very” give a false impression of clarity.
In reality, these intensifiers lack so much precision that they become blurred in turn. Intensifiers raise questions such as “significant compared to what and “clearly according to which criteria? If you are sparing in their use, two readers of the same report may have very different impressions: indications such as 23% or $ 3 billion tell a story, but what does “very big” mean?
A problem rarely has a universal character
It is important to be precise, however expressions such as “everything”, “nothing”, “never” or “always” are to be avoided. When they accompany the personal pronoun “you”, phrases such as “never” or “always” may distract readers who are wondering what the exceptions to this rule are rather than focusing on the real problem. It is better to say: you have tested 10 transactions and none have been approved, rather than saying that the transactions have never been approved.
Avoid the game of reproach
The purpose of internal audit reports is to make positive changes, not to look for those responsible. We are more likely to win when our reports are neutral and non-confrontational. The goal is to identify the source of the problem, not to identify the culprit. A report must identify the person responsible for taking action following a recommendation – rather than saying, “It was Fred’s fault”.
Do not say “management failed”
By stating that “management has failed to put in place adequate controls” you will invariably hit those who are affected by the implementation of corrective measures. Simply state the context without blaming anyone by using expressions such as “fail” because it makes it easier to implement the necessary corrective measures and preserve our relationship with management for a future one and audit of their field of activity.
The audited entity is in the old school
A few years ago, to designate people who were audited, they were most often referred to as “audited” people. Today, many experts agree that this term has negative connotations and that it refers to someone who has experienced something from an auditor. Internal audit has become a collaborative process and terms such as “audit client” indicate that we work with management, not management.
Avoid unnecessary technical jargon
Each profession needs some technical jargon, but for the message to be clear, we need to avoid as much as we can in a report. If you use more than one phrase with phrases such as “transactional controls”, “stratified sampling method”, or “asynchronous transfer mode” on a single page of an audit report, do not be surprised that some of your readers never reach the end of your report.
Avoid giving yourself all the merits
It is tempting to use expressions in the audit reports such as “internal audit revealed” or “we identified”. The management will not hesitate to point out to you that you credit yourself with revealing something that was not quite hidden and will reproach you for driving open doors.
If it sounds awesome, you probably have to rewrite it
Your work should allow readers of your report to remember your recommendations and take action and not feel impressed by pompous words or convoluted sentences. Avoiding jargon is only the beginning: try to replace the expression “by” with “by means of”, “now” with “at the moment”, and “if” with “so”, by example.
I like using the “college level” test: if an intelligent middle schooler is not able to understand your report, it is probably that it is unnecessarily complicated. Take, for example, this sentence from an internal audit report that shows how small things can change everything:
“During the above-mentioned review of the accounts by the internal auditors, the team assessed the cumulative impact of each of the individually insignificant items and, in so doing, relied on the assumption that it was the extent to which these impacts tended to balance each other or, conversely, to produce a cumulative correlated effect converging in the same direction and resulting in a significant impact.”
Hello everyone! This is Richard Daniels, a full-time passionate researcher & blogger. He holds a Ph.D. degree in Economics. He loves to write about economics, e-commerce, and business-related topics for students to assist them in their studies. That's the sole purpose of Business Study Notes.
Love my efforts? Don't forget to share this blog.