Amidst the challenges, there are opportunities for Internal Audit to work alongside and consult with district leaders to develop a proactive response to the current pandemic.
During these uncertain times, school boards face difficult decisions that may have both short-term and long-term implications for their district’s students, employees, citizens and other stakeholders. Internal audit professionals can provide value to school district leaders as they adapt to the “new normal.”
Open communication is critical, and the Internal Audit department can assist in driving necessary conversations. Communication with the board and management can identify new ways in which Internal Audit can support the district-wide organization.
- District management is navigating uncharted waters. Internal Audit should proactively communicate with the Bbard and offer insights on risk — positive and negative — for the decisions and options being evaluated, as well as assessing the potential impact on processes and activities that occur regularly across the district.
- As changes occur within the district, Internal Audit should initiate conversations with department directors and managers to discuss issues and challenges facing their department. Internal Audit can assist district management in evaluating new procedures and consider the risks associated with modifying traditional processes. Additionally, Internal Audit can identify opportunities to connect individuals experiencing similar issues and increase collaboration among departments.
The COVID-19 pandemic has required all organizations to modify processes and adapt personnel to a new way of working. With social distancing and a remote workforce, many traditional, day-to-day procedures were turned upside down almost overnight, resulting in “on the fly” changes to activities that had been meticulously designed.
This sudden shift has arguably had the most visible and profound effect on school districts, through the previously unimaginable and unprecedented wholesale rapid transition from the classroom to a 100% remote-learning environment. The challenges inherent in the shift out of the classroom are felt not only by the students, their families, and the teachers; the impact is felt throughout district operations in performing the essential function of educational support activities.
- Social distancing may limit the ability for in-person collaboration and controls that were traditionally performed in unison and must now be redesigned. Consider procedures and controls that occur in a central location or by two individuals working together. Internal Audit can assist district management with identifying key controls that require modification and making creative suggestions to ensure objectives are still met.
- Remote working may impact how controls are executed and documented. Consider controls that were previously manual. Do employees responsible for executing manual controls have the ability to print, scan and retain evidence? Documentation issues that are not proactively addressed could result in deficiencies that require more work down the road.
- New legislation has already been issued in response to the pandemic, with more likely to come. Internal Audit can help leaders understand the advantages, disadvantages, and possible new compliance requirements of legislation and, where necessary, offer guidance on integrating new activities that result from the legislation.
We are living in unprecedented times and uncertainty is high. Amidst the challenges, there are opportunities for Internal Audit to work alongside and consult with district leaders to develop a proactive response to the current pandemic.