Center for Audit Excellence
The Center for Audit Excellence (CAE) offers training, technical assistance, and other products and services to audit organizations to build capacity and foster effective accountability. Since opening in 2015, CAE has provided high-quality, fee-based services to numerous federal, state, local, and international organizations in the United States and around the world. Read more about CAE in the About Us section below or in our brochure: for an interactive version, or for a printable version.
CAE offers both open enrollment and group-based training on a wide array of audit-related topics. Training is delivered by highly experienced former GAO senior managers and executives with expertise in numerous audit-related topics.
Open-Enrollment: US citizens who work for the federal government or state and local audit organizations can register. Virtual courses are now available! For questions on open-enrollment courses or help with registration, contact us at CAE-Open-Enrollment-Courses@gao.gov or (202) 512-4499. You can register for courses here.
Group-Based and Customized Training: CAE can also provide courses to groups of employees at an organization’s worksite. In some cases, customized training can be developed to meet an organization’s needs. To request group or customized training, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at (202) 512-7100.
CIGIE Training Institute: CIGIE also offers specialized training for auditors and others.
Check out our video on the establishment of the Center for Audit Excellence:
CAE provides a wide range of interactive courses that use a combination of approaches, including lectures, video clips, large and small group discussion, and hands-on group activities. CAE instructors are highly experienced former GAO senior managers and executives that have directed audit teams and managed the design and implementation of complex audits using a variety of methodological approaches. They have expertise in a wide range of topics including education, defense, international affairs, financial management, information technology, transportation and physical infrastructure, procurement, and internal control and government auditing standards. We provide a certificate of completion at the end of each course.
The following courses are available through our Open Enrollment registration system as well as through our group-based and customized training. The courses are offered virtually unless otherwise specified. Any of these courses can also be arranged on an in-person basis for organizations that desire dedicated/customized training for their staff.
Understanding and Using Generally Accepted Government Auditing Standards (Yellow Book)
The Generally Accepted Government Auditing Standards (GAGAS, known as the Yellow Book) provide the fundamental framework for conducting high-quality audits with competence, integrity, objectivity, and independence. As such, auditors need to understand the overall GAGAS requirements and to stay up to date with the standards, including updates published in 2021. The Yellow Book states that obtaining CPEs, specifically on GAGAS, may assist auditors in maintaining the competence necessary to conduct GAGAS engagements. Using lecture, discussion, and group exercises, this 8-hour course walks participants through the Yellow Book requirements for government audits, including performance audits, financial audits, attestation engagements, and reviews of financial statements so that participants can better ensure they meet these standards on audits. Both new and seasoned auditors will benefit from this material. Download the full course description (PDF, 2 pages).
Building Equity into Performance Audits
The 2021 Technical Revision to the 2018 Generally Accepted Government Auditing Standards (Yellow Book) introduced “equity” as a concept for auditors to consider when conducting audits. This is an important concept given societal changes and increased knowledge about and program accountability for diversity and inclusion-related issues. However, auditors need support for interpreting the Yellow Book requirements and identifying implications for planning and conducting their audits, interpreting results, and appropriately communicating audit findings. Through a combination of instructor presentations and interactive class exercises, this 4-hour course seeks to help auditors better understand what equity means in the auditing context and what strategies they might use to build equity into their performance audits. Appropriate for both new and seasoned auditors in team member or team leader roles. Download the full course description (PDF, 2 pages).
Planning Performance Audits
A structured and disciplined approach to audit planning helps ensure that audit teams make the best use of resources and produce high-quality work that is fully supported. At the end of the planning and design phase, auditors should be able to make reliable commitments that reflect a thoughtful assessment of the trade-offs between audit scope, methodology, resources, and impact. Through lectures and hands-on exercises, this course covers the steps needed to plan and design an audit, including developing researchable audit questions, using various planning tools, and analyzing the trade-offs and considerations when determining audit scope and methodology. Participants will gain hands-on experience with the design matrix as a key audit planning tool. Both new and seasoned auditors in team member or team leader roles will gain knowledge and new perspectives about planning performance audits. This 8-hour course is offered over 2 half days. Download the full course description (PDF, 2 pages). Note: This course covers the material in the first half of the Conducting Quality Performance Audits for Results course.
Understanding and Assessing Internal Control in Audits
Internal control is an important focus area for auditors since a properly designed and implemented internal control system can provide reasonable assurance that an organization’s objectives will be achieved. Government auditing standards require auditors to determine whether internal control is significant to their audit objectives, and, if so, to assess the design, implementation, and/or operating effectiveness of this internal control to the extent necessary to address the audit objectives. Through lecture, individual exercises, group discussion, and case studies, this highly interactive course provides auditors a thorough understanding of internal control objectives, components, and principles. The course also provides guidance on how an audit team can incorporate internal control into audit planning and field work, and document their work in the final audit report. This course helps both new and seasoned auditors in team member or team leader roles better understand and apply the revised internal control requirements in the new Yellow Book standards. This 8-hour course is offered over 2 half days. Download the full course description (PDF, 2 pages).
Selecting and Applying Performance Audit Methodologies
Selecting the most appropriate methodology is key to the success of any performance audit. This requires careful consideration of various methodological approaches and a solid understanding of the strengths and limitations of each approach. Through lecture, class discussion, and small group exercises, this course covers the characteristics of different audit methodologies, factors to consider when selecting and implementing an approach, tips for documenting and reporting for each methodology, and questions to ask when using specialists such as statisticians for technical support. Both new and seasoned auditors, as well as team leaders, will gain valuable insights on selecting and applying audit methodologies. This 8-hour course is offered over 2 half days. Download the full course description (PDF, 2 pages).
Using Sampling in Performance Audits
A sound audit approach and impactful report depend on an audit team asking the right questions, gathering the most appropriate data, and analyzing that data in the most appropriate way. This highly interactive course discusses the role of generalizable and nongeneralizable sampling as a key method for audit teams to consider to achieve audit objectives. Through lecture and class exercises, the class will cover issues such as the differences between the different sampling methods, when they might be best used, how to implement them when appropriate, and how to report results. Both new as well as seasoned auditors in team leader or team member roles will gain knowledge and new perspectives about choosing sample types, documenting sample results, and reporting these results. This 8-hour course is offered over 2 half days. Download the full course description (PDF, 2 pages).
Using Surveys in Performance Audits
Surveys are often used to gather generalizable information from a large number of respondents and can be a valuable methodology to use in a performance audit. While surveys can often be the best way to collect the kind of data auditors need for certain audit objectives, surveys can be challenging to implement. Auditors may find that surveys are time consuming to develop and yet not produce the intended results if they are not designed well. Through lecture, class discussion, video, and small group exercises, this course will help participants better understand how to design a survey effort (including sampling techniques), write sound survey questions, pretest surveys, collect the data and analyze results. This information should help auditors make sound decisions about when to use surveys and how to effectively develop and administer them and interpret results. Appropriate for both new and seasoned auditors as well as team leaders. This 8-hour course is offered over 2 half days. Download the full course description (PDF, 2 pages).
Assessing Data Reliability
A sound audit and final report are only as good as the data on which they are based. As a result, assessing and reporting on the reliability of the data are key for any performance audit. This course covers a number of topics related to assessing data reliability including when an assessment is needed and what a data reliability framework looks like. Through lecture, examples, and exercises, it covers the process an audit team should go through to plan the assessment, test the data, and evaluate and document the results. This 3-hour course can be useful for new auditors and seasoned ones who may want a refresher on how to enhance data reliability in their work. Download the full course description (PDF, 2 pages).
Effectively Leading and Managing Audits
Effectively leading audits can be challenging and requires a wide range of both technical and interpersonal skills. This highly interactive 12-hour course is designed to provide useful information, tools and insights on the full range of skills needed to effectively lead and manage high-performing teams. Through lecture, video, hands-on group activities, and class discussion, this course will cover guiding audit planning, supervising audit work, developing and motivating staff, providing effective feedback, reviewing reports, and promoting a positive team culture. The participant manual and multiple hand-outs on relevant topics will continue to serve as resources after class completion. References to Generally Accepted Government Auditing Standards (GAGAS) are included. The concepts and resource materials can be used by team leaders, as well as those aspiring to lead audits. Download the full course description (PDF, 2 pages).
Enhancing Audit Team Success: Emotional Intelligence, Constructive Conversations and Leveraging Conflict
The key to both personal and professional success is the ability to interact with others in a way that fosters trust and open communication and demonstrates a willingness to engage in dialogue when differences or conflict occur. COVID-19 has put a bright light on the importance of teams working well together in difficult, stressful times and how the solutions to the challenges of today are highly dependent on both individuals and teams operating at maximum effectiveness. This course provides insight and techniques for helping to ensure audit teams’ success through better understanding the value each team member brings to the audit and being able to work through differences in a positive ways. This 8-hour course is offered over 2 half days. Download the full course description (PDF, 2-pages).
Collecting and Assessing Evidence to Produce Sound Audit Findings
Evidence is the foundation for any audit—it forms the basis for developing findings, conclusions, and recommendations. Accurate, non-biased, and logical evidence helps ensure the credibility of audit work and influences agency actions to improve program performance. Through lecture, discussion, and hands-on exercises, participants will learn the strengths and limitations of the various types of evidence, the role of judgment and professional skepticism in assessing evidence and how to apply required government auditing standards. Appropriate for both new and seasoned auditors in team member or team leader roles. This 8-hour course is offered over 2 half days. Download the full course description (PDF, 2 pages).
Critical Thinking: Principles & Practices for Auditors
A high-impact audit relies on the ability of auditors to think critically about how to design the audit, evaluate the findings, and develop the message. This 4-hour course discusses the linkage between critical thinking and audit quality and standards as laid out in the Yellow Book. It reviews common cognitive biases and logical fallacies that can affect quality and provides tips to avoid these traps. The course is ideal not only for new auditors so they can build this knowledge into their work, but also for seasoned auditors who may need a refresher to recognize changes needed to enhance their work approaches. Download the full course description (PDF, 2 pages).
Data Analytics: Enhancing the Impact of Performance Audits
The field of data analytics has developed rapidly in response to the explosion of the amount of data available as well as the development of more sophisticated tools to use in the analysis. However, existing courses and training in the field are not directly applicable to federal auditors since they are oriented toward the use of analytics in the business environment. This course provides an introduction to data analytics tools and techniques and how they can be applied in the auditing environment to better analyze programs, target the most important risks, and achieve the greatest impact from the limited resources available to auditors. It is designed to increase participants’ awareness of, and comfort with, a broad array of such tools rather than focus on specialized software or programming. This 8-hour course is offered over 2 half days. Download the full course description (PDF, 2 pages).
Message Development and Report Writing
Turning audit work into a finely honed, impactful message can be a challenge for audit teams and reviewers. For audit teams, it may be difficult to discern the most critical findings and evidence, which then complicates reviewers’ efforts to understand a potential message and provide feedback. Because report findings must be communicated clearly and on time to be useful to agencies and policy makers, not having a strong report message before starting to draft the report creates confusion, time delays and frustration for both the writer and reader. This course provides guidance and tools and techniques to help audit teams efficiently develop and communicate sound messages that meet standards, are clear to reviewers, and facilitate the development of a high-quality report. This 8-hour course is offered over 2 half days. Download the full course description (PDF, 2 pages).
Fundamental Concepts for Indexing and Referencing
Having quality audit documentation is a fundamental part of an audit organization’s quality assurance process. This 4-hour course covers various topics including what is meant by “indexing and referencing”, why is it important, how an auditor needs to link indexing and referencing to the evidence that has been collected, and the role of referencing as a quality control process outlined in the Yellow Book. This course can be a refresher for seasoned auditors or an introduction for new staff so they can understand the critical role of appropriate audit documentation. This course can also provide a context and framework for an entity’s own approach for documenting audit findings. Download the full course description (PDF, 2 pages).
Reviewing Draft Reports and Providing Effective Feedback
The process of moving from a draft report to a high quality and timely final product can be challenging for reviewers and report writers. Yet report findings must be communicated clearly and on time to be useful to agencies and policy makers. Using lecture, carefully designed exercises, short video clips, and class discussion, this highly interactive course provides practical techniques for reviewing drafts and providing effective feedback that can expedite revisions, result in high-quality products, and help improve staff report writing skills. This course is suited for audit team members, as well as supervisors. This 8-hour course is offered over 2 half days. Download the full course description (PDF, 2 pages).
CAE also offers fee-based technical assistance to accountability organizations on a number of topics, including:
- Conducting needs assessments to identify areas for improvement and next steps for strengthening capacity
- Identifying, developing, and supporting the implementation of strategic plans, human capital strategies, performance measurement systems, and processes for recommendation follow-up
- Mentoring and coaching audit teams in carrying out various types of audits using proven tools and techniques for delivering high-quality results
- Mentoring auditors to engage with stakeholders (like the public and the media) and implement organizational change
Technical assistance can be customized to meet your organization’s needs. To request technical assistance, please email us at email@example.com or call us at (202) 512-7100.
How We Work
We work with organizations in a collaborative fashion to provide technical assistance. After being contacted by an organization that is interested in our services, we:
Engage in dialogue to understand an organization’s needs
Upon receiving an inquiry or request for services, we will schedule a time to meet with representatives of the requesting organization to gain a better understanding of its needs, identify types of services that can best meet those needs, and discuss timeframes. We will then develop a description of proposed services, along with associated fees.
Assign highly experienced Center staff
Our highly experienced audit professionals and trainers have previously served as senior audit executives and managers, instructors, and professional development coaches at GAO and other organizations.
Determine the most cost-efficient location and approach for providing services
During discussions with requesting organizations, we work collaboratively to identify the most efficient and cost-effective way to provide services. Our goal is to limit costs for providing services and keep fees at an affordable level. We have the capacity to travel to a requesting organization’s location and anticipate this will often be the most cost-effective way to provide services. However, we also have the capacity to provide services at GAO.
Develop and deliver services
After signing an agreement with a requesting organization, we prepare relevant materials, provide regular updates and deliver services in accordance with agreed upon timeframes, fees, and scope of work. We seek feedback from organizations throughout the process to help ensure their needs are met.
CAE has provided high-quality training and technical assistance to multiple Supreme Audit Institutions (SAIs) around the world, as well as to numerous federal, state, and local audit organizations.
Customer feedback has consistently demonstrated excellent ratings for courses, and regularly includes praise for the knowledgeable instructors, use of varied teaching approaches, quality of the curriculum, the high level of classroom interaction, and practical applicability to the job.
Recent feedback includes:
“The best investment ever made!”
“Instructor had great energy, useful examples, encouraged participation, and had excellent reference materials.”
“The content was spot on for what we do as auditors.”
“[These are some] of the most incredible trainers I have ever had. The way they keep us engaged in each part of the course…with so much fun is what makes this course very special.”
“The breadth and depth of the… positive feedback…from our staff clearly demonstrated the value of the training…”
- We signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the World Bank to promote global accountability and strong public financial management.
- We signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the US Agency for International Development to enhance the capability of audit organizations in developing countries.
Examples of CAE accomplishments
CAE has worked to build capacity and foster effective accountability on a global scale (PDF, 3 pages). We have worked with SAIs on site in multiple countries to improve their capacity.
For example, we have:
- Assisted an SAI in Central America improve its capacity to conduct performance audits through training courses, helped update its performance audit manual, and mentored an audit team
- Began a 3-year project to help enhance the performance audit capability of an SAI in Asia that will include training classes, coaching and mentoring auditors, and other support (through USAID partnership)
- Conducted an assessment to identify key capacity building needs of an SAI in Africa (through USAID partnership)
- Helped a European SAI assess and improve its process for documenting financial results from audits
- Helped a European SAI enhance its capacity to conduct information technology audits
We have also provided various training courses for domestic audit agencies to improve audit skills, enhance knowledge on evidence standards, and strengthen supervisor proficiencies.
For example, we have:
- Provided 10 training sessions on internal control to a federal Inspector General office in its D.C. and regional offices
- Provided a week of training that covered performance auditing, internal control, and indexing and referencing to a federal Inspector General office. We were then asked to come back and provide six more sessions.
- Provided training on auditing the efficiency and effectiveness of state programs to a state audit office
- Provided training to auditors from a large local government audit office on performance auditing, use of evidence, and critical reviews of drafts
By providing training and technical assistance, CAE helps accountability organizations:
- Improve skills in planning, conducting, and reporting on performance and financial audits
- Sharpen managers’ leadership and supervisory skills to more effectively oversee audits
- Understand and apply internal control and other relevant federal and international audit standards
- Conduct needs assessments to identify areas for strengthening policies, procedures, and skills
- Identify, develop, and implement quality assurance frameworks, strategic plans, human capital strategies, and performance measures
CAE is staffed by former senior-level GAO executives and managers to ensure high-quality services and provide independence from the GAO offices that provide routine audit and oversight services.
- Bios (PDF, 2 pages)
- Relevant legislation (PDF, 3 pages)
- Eligibility criteria for CAE assistance (PDF, 1 page)