Audit Ready Output: Beware of Cheap Imitations

Ecometrica Operations Director, Gary DavisSince we launched the concept of Audit Ready Output early in 2013 there have been a number of organisations who claim to offer the same thing but as far as we know, no-one else has had this claim backed up by an independent assurance exercise of their own, which makes the claim ironic at best and meaningless otherwise. How can you claim that you have an audit ready system if you haven’t had a team of independent auditors check that this is the case?

Audit Ready means that an entire system is ready to be audited by an audit firm and it doesn’t just mean that you are able to allow auditors to log in to a system and see where the data has been put in. It goes much deeper than that, a fact that anyone who has actually been through an audit process themselves will appreciate. Here is an excerpt from our PwC assurance report explaining what we mean by “Audit Ready”:

“Audit Ready Output” is a concept that ensures that all outputs from a GHG accounting system are fit for purpose and can be subject to independent audit without the need for reporting organisations to carry out any further calculations, clarification, data manipulation or other “pre-audit” work. Features of an audit ready system must therefore include:

  • A database of up to date and accurate emission factors;
  • A database of up to date and accurate conversion factors;
  • A credible system for ensuring that emission and conversion factors are maintained;
  • A system of quality assurance checks embedded into the GHG assessment work flow;
  • The ability to present all of the information an auditor would need to carry out an independent assurance exercise on the GHG results, including PDF reports, excel sheets, and supporting evidence for submitted data; and
  • Controls that ensure the data and results cannot be changed by clients after publication without authorisation from Ecometrica.


I’d therefore encourage anyone interested in Audit Ready to read our independent assurance report from PwC and take note of the reasonable, rather than limited, assurance we have over the controls in the entire Our Impacts and Our Impacts: Integrated systems. These controls cover the front end data entry and quality assurance processes, our “back end” database maintenance and update processes and our entire system development processes from design, through testing and deployment on our production environment. Having a controls-based process, with clear segregation of duties, is critical to audit ready output and is what allows auditors to have trust and confidence in a system. Without this assurance in place an audit firm must get themselves in a position where they have confidence in a system and its controls so a lot of time and expense will be incurred while the auditors give themselves this comfort. With independently assured audit ready output we’ve already done this and this will save time and expense in every engagement.

So when the term “audit ready” is thrown around willy nilly, ask to see the independent audit report that backs up this bold claim and please beware of cheap imitations.

2 Responses to “Audit Ready Output: Beware of Cheap Imitations”

  1. Paul Adams

    Very interesting article.

    In reality no software will provide a complete audit trail for GHG emissions assessment. Having worked in this area for several years in Australia we are yet to see a software system which can handle the many complexities of GHG accounting, as well as the records, datasets, etc. There will always be a need for supporting evidence.

    Nonetheless I would agree that the term “audit ready” is perhaps used incorrectly by software providers.

    I would also add that an audit ready system needs the ability to have a time/date and user function so that any changes in input data, emission factors, etc. can be traced through.

    The disappointing aspect from a UK perspective is that there aren’t many firms who would have the expertise to actually audit GHG data. Unlike in Australia where there is a Register of GHG Auditors, the UK has opted for a watered down GHG reporting system, so companies do not have to have their emissions data independently audited.

    So whilst it is important to have audit ready software, and I believe Ecometrica’s is market leading in this regard, the time is not yet here in the UK where firms actually need to audit their GHG data. Hopefully this will change in the next few years as companies get better at reporting.

    Reply
    • Gary Davis

      Thanks Paul. We certainly like to think that Our Impacts can handle the many complexities of GHG accounting; we designed it from the ground up based on our 50 years of combined GHG accounting experience. To be honest the majority of the clever stuff is lost on most companies (correct treatment of net/gross emissions, biogenic emissions, “green” tariffs, T&D losses, upstream emissions, etc. etc.) and even on many auditors, but it does mean that we are confident users of our systems won’t outgrow them or fail audits on technicalities.

      This also extends to the system’s ability to have evidence uploaded for each data point, date/ time and user stamps for the underlying emissions databases, client data and quality assurance, as well as the segregation of duties, all of which are fundamental properties of a controls-based approach. All of this has been has been subjected to “reasonable assurance” by PwC, again some subtle phrasing that is lost on many (but not auditors!).

      While our systems are designed to prepare our customers for a world of rigour and audit I do agree that in the UK we are not quite there yet. Having said that with the incoming mandatory GHG reporting requirements we’re finding that there is much greater interest in having robust systems that can be subject to independent audit and indeed many of our clients are planning to do exactly that. I also agree with your point on the lack of expertise available from audit firms to do the audit work should it be required, but assuming that not all companies require this at once, I think the audit firms will gradually acquire these skills to meet the demand.

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