Auditors should prepare a report based on the conclusions reached

The audit process involves preparing a report to communicate the results of the audit to stakeholders, others responsible for governance and the general public. The purpose is also to facilitate follow-up and corrective action. In some SAIs, such as courts of audit with jurisdictional authority, this may include issuing legally binding reports or judicial decisions.

Reports should be easy to understand, free from vagueness or ambiguity and complete. They should be objective and fair, only including information which is supported by sufficient and appropriate audit evidence and ensuring that findings are put into perspective and context.

The form and content of a report will depend on the nature of the audit, the intended users, the applicable standards and legal requirements. The SAI’s mandate and other relevant laws or regulations may specify the layout or wording of reports, which can appear in short form or long form.

Long-form reports generally describe in detail the audit scope, audit findings and conclusions, including potential consequences and constructive recommendations to enable remedial action.

Short-form reports are more condensed and generally in a more standardised format.

Attestation engagements
In attestation engagements the audit report may express an opinion as to whether the subject matter information is, in all material respects, free from misstatement and/or whether the subject matter complies, in all material respects, with the established criteria. In an attestation engagement the report is generally referred to as the Auditor’s Report.

Direct engagements
In direct engagements the audit report needs to state the audit objectives and describe how they were addressed in the audit. It includes findings and conclusions on the subject matter and may also include recommendations. Additional information about criteria, methodology and sources of data may also be given, and any limitations to the audit scope should be described. The audit report should explain how the evidence obtained was used and why the resulting conclusions were drawn. This will enable it to provide the intended users with the necessary degree of confidence.

When an audit opinion is used to convey the level of assurance, the opinion should be in a standardised format. The opinion may be unmodified or modified. An unmodified opinion is used when either limited or reasonable assurance has been obtained. A modified opinion may be:

  • Qualified (except for) – where the auditor disagrees with, or is unable to obtain sufficient and appropriate audit evidence about, certain items in the subject matter which are, or could be, material but not pervasive;
  • Adverse – where the auditor, having obtained sufficient and appropriate audit evidence, concludes that deviations or misstatements, whether individually or in the aggregate, are both material and pervasive;
  • Disclaimed – where the auditor is unable to obtain sufficient and appropriate audit evidence due to an uncertainty or scope limitation which is both material and pervasive.

Where the opinion is modified the reasons should be put in perspective by clearly explaining, with reference to the applicable criteria, the nature and extent of the modification. Depending on the type of audit, recommendations for corrective action and any contributing internal control deficiencies may also be included in the report.

INTOSAI ref. Fundamental Principles of Public-Sector Auditing(pdf) (ISSAI-100).
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