After a formal audit, audit rules require a management communication letter presented to the owners, leaders and/or audit committee that outlines control deficiencies. The individual(s) overseeing the audit process will need to confirm receipt of the management letter and sign off on the stated deficiencies and/or demonstrate how they have already been handled in a formal response. Financial institutions may request copies of these audit findings from the company.
If there are deficiencies that require immediate or timely improvements by the company, the company will have to show how and when those deficiencies will be addressed and communicate the plan to the financial institution(s).
Beyond that, the audit team’s “job” is done. It is up to the company to determine how to make internal controls or process improvements that support compliance. However, a knowledgeable audit team will give leaders and owners some items to think about beyond fulfilling the requirements of the management communication letter.
Typically, a senior member of the CPA firm will follow up with the owner, CFO or accounting staff and talk to them about operational or financial health and efficiency. It is this discussion — before, during and after the audit — that sets audit teams apart. During that follow-up call, the audit team sets the tone for an ongoing relationship with management and business owners. Ideally, clients will contact the audit partner with questions or concerns throughout the year — for compliance and growth considerations. Owners may have questions about employment growth and overtime rules. They may want to know if an employee benefit plan audit is required, or the timing of a merger. Audit teams can often be the first people who see the advantages of a change in entity structure.
A proactive follow-up by your audit team can make the difference between a dreaded annual obligation and an anticipation of true advisory support. It may never be an amusing experience to see your audit team, but the right team can give leaders the value from their many years of reviewing financial statements, putting issues in context and identifying a new direction for the coming year. For us, it’s not just a job. It’s a relationship that begins — or strengthens — once your audit is complete.
Mike Rizkal, CPA, is a Partner in Cornwell Jackson’s Audit and Attest Service Group. He provides a variety of services to privately held, middle-market businesses with a focus in the construction, real estate, manufacturing, distribution, professional services and technology industries. He also oversees the firm’s ERISA practice, which includes the audits of approximately 75 employee benefit plans.