Concept of Virtual Audit Services and Inspections
Due to rapid technological advancements, virtual audits are becoming increasingly popular among businesses. Businesses have already used high-tech tactics that allow audit teams to receive and exchange data, conduct interviews, and observe organizations all over the world. The most recent edition of ISO 19011:2018, which governs auditing management system rules, includes new criteria for performing virtual audits, also known as remote audits, in order to complete the shift to e-auditing.
We cannot dispute that present COVID-19 has caused businesses to adapt business practice. While keeping their social obligation to the community and partners, the corporations are more worried about the safety of their employees. A large number of medication and device sponsors, manufacturers, and marketing authorization holders have continued to operate and offer critical items. Existing businesses and start-ups must adhere to the regulations and complete their auditing work. Companies can continue to qualify and requalify their compliances while preserving social distance standards that restrict them from performing on-site audits by using Virtual Audit Services.
What is the Meaning of Virtual Audit?
Virtual or the remote audits are electronic audits and these are conducted without the use of paper and without any face-to-face direct interaction between the government and industry. Electronic formats such as MS Excel, MS Word, PDF Files, and EDI Files are used to exchange all of the data.
E-audit is another term for a virtual audit, often known as a remote audit. It’s just like an audit; the only difference is that it obtains audit proof remotely via electronic means.
Virtual auditing procedures are similar to those used in person, but you can send data via Google Drive, email, and cloud sharing, for example. Additionally, the company may share papers by sharing its desktop screen or using Zoom or Skype for video conferencing.
Virtually reviewing papers and records can be more efficient than on-site audits. Manufacturing operations and product storage are two areas that might cause problems during a virtual audit. Virtual audits can collect the needed evidence via live video monitoring in these situations.
Conducting a remote audit does not imply that all work must be done on an off-site basis; some work may be done on-site as well. E-auditing typically indicates that the auditing operations will be undertaken away from the auditee’s location if at all practicable.
Virtual Audit Procedures
The process or procedure of the virtual audit would be including the following majorly:
Preparation or Planning of the Virtual Audit
- It is critical to prepare for a virtual audit in order to get a good conclusion. Before beginning the virtual audit, the auditor must request that the auditee provide all of the relevant information. These can contain quality manuals, organizational charts, and standard operating procedures, among other things.
- In line with the audit procedure, the auditor must guarantee that he respects the data protection regulations laid down by the respective laws in force.
- Ascertain that the auditee has a clear grasp of how the documents will be retrieved and shared. The audited firm’s major priority is clearly document confidentiality and regulated distribution. As a result, file sharing with read-only access is required. There are a number of options for this, including Screen Share or file-sharing services like Box.com or SharePoint.
- The auditor must follow all applicable global and local data privacy standards while releasing the material. If any regulation precludes vital data from being shared beyond the examined location, the audit’s scope will be adjusted based on a risk-based review. Complementary reviews can be planned to complete the quality assurance assessment, allowing for compliant business continuity.
- Ascertain that at least one or two auditee individuals are committed to assisting the audit for the duration of the time frame.
- The auditee must ensure that the virtual audit technology is agreed upon and tested. WebEx and Facetime are two examples of video conferencing technologies that may be used for tours and other purposes.
- Make sure the online meeting invites are sent out with enough time for each side to arrange conferencing and conference room space.
- Both parties must certify that the audit will be conducted with the relevant people available and planned.
- The auditor should suggest that the auditee put up a virtual tour for a facility tour or thorough facilities presentation.
- Plans and agendas for audits can be developed as normal.
- In circumstances where a facility visit is required, the time set out for the tour should be utilised to see an online virtual tour or presentation given by the auditee. If a thorough tour is not possible, a risk-based assessment must be used to explain the aim of the facility visit and to outline the main topics to be covered.
Performing the Audit
- The auditor should adhere to the onsite audit as closely as feasible.
- The audits to be conducted can be broken into two phases with considerable intervals that allow the auditee to collect and upload the documents needed during the audit to the shared drive.
- Using the agreed-upon video conferencing platform, both parties must have open meetings with the relevant staff.
- The auditor must request a virtual tour of the facility, or the auditee can deliver a facility overview presentation including facility plant, photos, and process flow to be provided to the auditor. These must be followed in an open meeting.
- If any papers or records are sent to the auditor ahead of time through email or through a website service, the auditor can begin the document review process.
- Questions and requests of any kind can be sent by chat, phone, email, or online web conferencing.
- If the auditee fails to produce the papers for inspection by the auditors, the documents and records will be displayed through video conference.
Conducting a Closure Meeting
- The closing meeting must be held as normal, but using the video conferencing tool chosen.
- The auditor must ensure that this meeting has been properly prepared and arranged with the appropriate attendees.
An on-site audit offers several advantages, including the ability for the auditor to analyse the process in real time and even do a physical tour of the facility. The present COVID-19 dilemma, however, has compelled the groups to adapt and use alternative options. A virtual audit is the finest approach for allowing the firm to operate.
Virtual Audit vs On-Site Physical Audit
A remote audit, sometimes known as a virtual audit, is a means of performing an audit remotely, utilising electronic technologies such as video conferencing, email, and phone to acquire audit evidence, just like an on-site audit. The main goal is to objectively assess this data in order to determine how well the audit criteria have been met.
Remote auditing allows you to use technologies like file and screen sharing, video conferencing (Skype and Zoom are popular platforms), and real-time data analysis. Auditors can employ the same conventional auditing procedures they use on-site audits, such as being open-minded, diplomatic, attentive, and courteous to the auditee, during this form of audit.
But before the pandemic and the technology driven work atmosphere, the audits were conducted by physically visiting the site. This field or site visit was one of the major factors of the audit which not only consumed time but also required constant commuting and reporting along with waiting for appointments and schedules. It also required a lot of waiting time as the auditors and his or her team will have to wait until the documents are made ready and are provided to them for their verification process.
Virtual Audit Tools
Conducting the audit online is not an easy job as it would demand various tools that can enable the client and the auditor share the information and make the table ready for auditing in a seamless manner. In this technology driven arena there are multiple tools which would aid the auditors and their client to conduct the remote audit by helping them utilize their time and resources in a better manner than any other non-value adding activities.
Some of the major tools which would aid the conducting of the remote or virtual audit would include:
One major tool required for conducing the remote audit would be the video or audio-conferencing tool. This would help an auditor connect his or her team with the client and their team. It is through this that all the meetings will be held and thereby works would be completed along with decisions would be taken. Some of the major tools used for this would include:
- Microsoft Teams
- Cisco Webex
This is another requirement while conducting the audit whereby the client or the auditor can share their screen such that the other party can be explained with certain instances or processes or even the report verification. There can also be the control of the screen passed to the either party for better conducting of the activities. Certain tools which are used for this would include:
- Any Desk
- Microsoft Quick Share
Tools for Scheduling the Meeting
The auditors can also use the tools which would allow them manage people, equipment and conference rooms, along with integrating the same into the accounting business processes that are owned and ran by the entity. Some of these would include:
Acuity Scheduling, Jobber, Giga book etc.
Benefits of Auditing in a Virtual Environment
There are numerous benefits which are posed by the Virtual or Remote Audit and this would include:
Cost and Time Efficiency
Many of the data, such as Cloud Portal, is available from anywhere. As a result, it is preferable to save time by checking documentation that may be obtained through other ways. As a result, money and time spent travelling to the audit location will be significantly reduced. Furthermore, the interviews and observations can be conducted using popular platforms such as Skype and Zoom, which are often utilised by businesses.
No or Nil Requirement for any Audit Logistics
When performing a virtual audit, companies are frequently relieved of the practicalities of reserving conference rooms and cleaning up after the auditing team has left, as well as concerns about the audit team’s and employees’ health in light of the current epidemic. Other hassles encountered during an onsite audit will be avoided for the auditors.
No Commuting Requirements
For a variety of reasons, certain auditing places might be difficult to reach:
It’s possible that the place is in a remote area.
Permission is necessary for the auditor to enter, and in some cases, visas are required if the audits are undertaken worldwide.
You may prevent these issues by using virtual auditing.
Increased Team Efficiency
Working from their home office environment will make the audit team feel more at ease. They will be able to utilise all of the required tools, such as monitors, printers, and high-speed internet, since they will have access to all of them. As a result, the productivity of an e-audit will be significantly higher than that of an on-site audit, requiring less time to accomplish the assignment.