These are special times. Corona not only provides us with new words such as cough shame, corona haircut, takeaway file, drive-by graduation ceremony and intelligent lockdown, but also leads to a different, adapted way of working.
Many employees of organizations nowadays work – largely – from home. It is no longer self-evident that I sit next to someone and we look at the process together and whether it has been properly followed. Non-verbal communication also largely disappears due to working from home. You simply cannot look into the “dolls of his eyes” when someone you talk to on the phone or who e-mails you. There is a good chance that you will miss the all-important “soft controls”. And if you are sitting next to someone who does not have his work in order, that is immediately clear. You won’t get that if you don’t see each other “live”.
The new normal
In the new normal, the controller has several options for contact and maintenance so that it can do its job properly.
- An audit task such as the assessment of an investment proposal for a project, for example, can be done by email. A project proposal with accompanying calculations can be judged from a distance. In-depth questions can be asked by telephone or by means of video calling and processed in the assessment.
- Performing a remote audit is a lot more difficult. Ask open questions to find out as much as possible. Let people tell the story from A to Z. In this way you get clear whether the person concerned controls the process.
- Request data from the administration, select a random sample from this. Ideally, the controller should have the login rights itself, so that manipulating or completing data is no longer possible. With this method you, as the controller, perform the audit yourself. If you don’t do the audit yourself; make sure you know who carried out the internal control activities and how the program came about.
- Risks and associated control measures can be devised for each process. Include this in the assessment of a process in order to be able to do a good audit.
- By working remotely, the focus is now more on “hard controls”. But the “soft controls” are just as important. Develop the feeling for it even more. For example, if someone does not respond quickly or only partially to questions, this can be a signal that the process is not being controlled. That means: keep asking, asking, asking.
Whether we will return to five days at the office in the future is highly questionable. Research shows that at least one third of employees want to continue to work partly from home. That means a different way of working, also for the controller. Remember that the basis of good cooperation is always trust. But… that there is nothing wrong with monitoring – even from a distance!
Author: Arjan Frerichs, Finance professional at Hofmeier
This article was published in cm: 2020, ep. 7