Ensuring the Quality of Audits
Given the mission of the Office of the Auditor General to be a reliable and independent source of information and assurance for Parliament, the quality of our work is of paramount importance. The Office ensures the quality of its audit work by following professional auditing standards. In Canada, these are set by the Auditing and Assurance Standards Board of The Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants. They are considered minimum requirements for all our audits. Senior members of the Office participate in standard-setting bodies in accounting and auditing in Canada and internationally. The Office also draws on the standards and practices of other disciplines, such as statistics, engineering, economics, and the social sciences.
Audit Teams Are Made Up of Highly Qualified Audit Professionals
Audit professionals are highly qualified in their fields. They bring a mix of academic disciplines and experience to their work. Accountants, engineers, lawyers, management specialists, information technology professionals, environmental specialists, economists, historians, and sociologists make up our multidisciplinary staff. Where the necessary skills are not available within the Office, we hire experts on a contractual basis.
All professional staff have a post-graduate degree or a bachelor’s degree with a professional designation, and many have additional credentials. This background contributes to the credibility of our organization and its work.
Auditors Adhere to a Strict Code of Values, Ethics, and Professional Conduct
The Office’s Code of Values, Ethics and Professional Conduct sets out the principles governing the conduct of all employees: democracy and independence; respect for people; integrity and professionalism; stewardship and serving the public interest; and commitment to excellence. The code also clearly outlines employee responsibilities to Parliament, audit entities, the public, and the Office. Once a year, employees are required to certify that they comply with this code.
Audit Teams Benefit from the Advice and Guidance of Experts
Advisory committees provide advice to teams conducting performance audits. Performance audits are often complex undertakings requiring a wide range of skills, expertise, and experience. At critical points in the audit, the audit team calls upon the expertise of an advisory committee made up of internal and external experts to review audit plans and results and to offer advice. Members of advisory committees are selected on the basis of their skills, knowledge, and experience. Audit teams can also take advantage of internal specialists to provide advice and assistance in specific areas.
Other advisory committees provide advice on the Office’s future directions. The Auditor General and Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development consult with other committees and panels for strategic advice and input on current and future directions in the Office’s audits. These advisory bodies include the Panel of Senior Advisors, panels on Aboriginal issues, the Independent Accounting and Financial Auditing Advisory Committee, and the Panel of Environmental Advisors.
The Office Seeks Independent Assurance That Its Work Is of High Quality
Audits are subject to concurrent quality reviews by selected senior auditors in the Office. Quality reviewers provide an additional source of assurance on the quality of our audits. They advise the audit team on key risks that may be encountered in the planning and reporting of audits, review audit reports, and verify that Office policies have been followed.
The Office subjects all its audit products to regular practice reviews. Practice reviews provide assurance to the Auditor General that audits are done in compliance with the Office’s system of quality control, policies, and professional standards. These reviews also contribute to continuous improvement by creating an opportunity for audit teams and the Office to learn from experience.
The Office voluntarily subjects its work to independent external reviews. In 2009, an international peer review team, led by the Australian National Audit Office, examined the work of the Office. The team found that our quality management system was suitably designed and operating effectively for the performance audit and special examination practices. For the financial audit practice, the team found that our system was suitably designed and generally operating effectively but noted that risk assessment and documentation needed attention. We agree with the report’s recommendations for improving our methods.
In 2003, the Office asked an international team of peers led by the National Audit Office of the United Kingdom to review its performance audit practice. The team found that the practice reflected recognized professional standards and was operating effectively to produce independent and supportable information that can be relied on to examine the government’s performance.
In 1999, an external audit firm reviewed the Office’s quality management system for financial audits. The reviewers concluded that the system was suitably designed and operated effectively.
The Office Contributes to and Stays Abreast of National and International Innovations in Legislative Auditing
On the national level, the Office plays an active role in the Canadian Council of Legislative Auditors, which is made up of the federal and provincial audit offices. This involvement allows us to share information and to benefit from the continued development of legislative auditing methodology and practices, and to collaborate on audits of mutual interest.
On the international level, the Office also participates in the International Organization of Supreme Audit Institutions (INTOSAI) and meets regularly with its counterparts in the G8 countries. Through this international contact, the Office strengthens its legislative audit practice by learning about best practices and major new initiatives in public sector auditing and accountability reporting.