Federal Agencies Still Need To Develop Greater Computer Audit Capabilities

AFMD-82-7: Published: Oct 16, 1981. Publicly Released: Oct 16, 1981.

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A growing reliance on computers, coupled with increasing cost, requires that Federal managers assure themselves that computers support management goals and objectives, operate efficiently and economically, and encompass adequate controls to prevent errors, fraud, waste, and abuse. Internal auditing is an important management tool to help provide such assurance. GAO conducted a review to evaluate the progress of Federal internal audit organizations and provided guidance for agencies in establishing proper computer audit coverage.

Some of the 19 Federal audit organizations which GAO reviewed cannot be sure that they have adequately identified their agencies' computer audit needs. GAO found that nine organizations had limited, outdated, or no inventories of their agencies' computer systems to aid in planning audit coverage. GAO also found that many organizations have not developed and maintained the skilled staff necessary to meet computer audit responsibilities for their agencies. Six organizations had little or no computer audit capabilities at the time of the review. Although GAO found examples of effective computer auditing, insufficient computer audit capabilities generally resulted in only limited compliance with the standards issued by GAO for auditing computer-based systems. Some organizations were hindered in acquiring computer audit staff because of personnel ceilings, Federal hiring restrictions, and a lack of management support for computer auditing. GAO also found that many organizations did not have formal training programs to help develop computer audit skills. Despite an increased emphasis on the need for proper computer-related controls, GAO found little overall direction, other than the GAO audit standards, requiring Federal internal audit organizations to specifically evaluate computer-related controls. Such evaluations could help minimize error, fraud, waste, and abuse, but are also necessary if Government auditors are to fulfill their professional audit responsibilities.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The heads of Federal agencies should help ensure that their inspector general and internal audit organizations properly consider agency computer operations in providing internal audit coverage by requiring them to consider computers in fulfilling audit responsibilities to review for efficient, effective, and economical operations.

    Agency Affected: Heads of Federal Agencies

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Federal agencies are severely limited by training and travel resources. This will always affect the training program such that this recommendation could remain outstanding indefinitely. Many agencies now feel that new auditors receive such training in college. GAO suggests no further followup of recommendations are warranted.

    Recommendation: The heads of Federal agencies should help ensure that their inspector general and internal audit organizations properly consider agency computer operations in providing internal audit coverage by requiring them to establish a basic level of computer knowledge which all audit staff must attain. Auditors may reach this basic level through their own educational programs or by training during their employment.

    Agency Affected: Heads of Federal Agencies

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The heads of Federal agencies should help ensure that their inspector general and internal audit organizations properly consider agency computer operations in providing internal audit coverage by requiring them to periodically review audit coverage of computer systems and adjust allocations of staff resources accordingly.

    Agency Affected: Heads of Federal Agencies

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The heads of Federal agencies should help ensure that their inspector general and internal audit organizations properly consider agency computer operations in providing internal audit coverage by requiring them to determine the staff and skills needed to meet computer audit responsibilities, and consider alternatives for developing and sustaining these capabilities.

    Agency Affected: Heads of Federal Agencies

  5. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The heads of Federal agencies should help ensure that their inspector general and internal audit organizations properly consider agency computer operations in providing internal audit coverage by requiring them to determine the extent to which computer activities need auditing and conduct needed audits based on the requirements of the GAO computer audit standards relating to the adequacy of general and application controls.

    Agency Affected: Heads of Federal Agencies

  6. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The heads of Federal agencies should help ensure that their inspector general and internal audit organizations properly consider agency computer operations in providing internal audit coverage by requiring them to identify the agency's computer audit universe, including existing computer systems and major applications as well as those being planned for design and development.

    Agency Affected: Heads of Federal Agencies

  7. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Office of Management and Budget should play a more active role in monitoring agencies' progress in developing and maintaining their computer audit capabilities and provide guidance as appropriate, addressing internal audit evaluation of computer-related controls.

    Agency Affected: Executive Office of the President: Office of Management and Budget

 

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