26 February 2013, Geneva, Switzerland - UNITAR and the International Organisation of Supreme Audit Institution (INTOSAI) Development Initiative (IDI) recently completed a joint e-Learning course on the ‘Risk Based Approach to Financial Auditing’ for a global audience of English-speaking public sector auditors. 

Following the initial introduction of this course in May 2012, UNITAR and IDI re-launched the same course in November 2012, with twice as many participants as compared to the first one. This run of the five week e-Learning course brought together 193 audit professionals from Supreme Audit Institutions (SAI) in 59 countries, and concluded with a completion rate of 89 per cent. In its re-launch the course not only had high levels of interest and applications, but also received immensely positive reviews from participants in the course evaluation questionnaire at its conclusion. 

The course was created with the aim of enhancing the skills of audit professionals in the area of risk assessment in the audit planning and execution process. These skills included an increased familiarity with the concept of a risk based approach to auditing, an improved ability to discern sufficiency and appropriateness of audit evidence, and an improved understanding of the various risk assessment procedures. In addition, it addressed the auditors’ need to develop audit techniques, the methodology that would allow them to do this, as well as perfecting their ability to be able to keep pace with the expanding role of public sector auditors. 

Similar to the first run in May, the course was practice-oriented and made use of case studies to ensure that the concepts were translated into practical applications. 

International Experts

An international panel of experts facilitated the weekly discussion forums and provided their expertise to the participants. Mr. Rolf Elm-Larsen, former Director of National Audit Office of Denmark, served as the overall course mentor. The weekly deliberations were also mentored by Ms. Michelle Tomlinson, Director of the Auditor General’s Office of Jamaica, Mr. Dharmendra Kumar, Director of the Office of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India, and Ms. Tameika Fleming, Deputy Director of the Internal Audit Department of Anguilla. 

Ms. Shefali Andaleeb, Assistant Director General of IDI provided the overall management of the project. 

Positive Results

The results of the aforementioned course evaluation questionnaire show the participants found many positive aspects, the highlights of which include the lively, well-informed and instructive weekly discussions, which were conducted in the course forums and facilitated by the course mentors. These discussions allowed the fruitful exchange of ideas, experiences, and opinions between participants and the opportunity to engage with the mentors. Other parts of the teaching methodology that were deemed very useful were the compulsory quizzes that participants were to take at the end of every module as well as the materials and the examples of real life cases that the participants could apply their newly learned knowledge to. 

When comparing the course to its last run during May 2012, the results and comments showed that there were many positive changes, such as a doubling in the amount of participants who would recommend the course to a colleague. There were also significant improvements in participation as well as a higher satisfaction rate in the work of the moderators as well as the overall organization of the programme from the view of said participants. There was also an overall improvement in the navigability of the course as well as growth in the usefulness of the pre-course information provided, as it accurately described what was to take place in the course. Furthermore, an important improvement came from the fact that more of the participants found the course to be very relevant to their jobs, and there was a significant increase in how the information learned was perceived to be useful in their corresponding professions. 

Participant Feedback

As testimony of the success of the course, the feedback and quotations given by the participants were overwhelmingly positive. For example, in regards to the methodology, a participant wrote: 

The E-Learning was altogether a new experience. It allowed us to study in our own time, meaning that many participants could learn from across the globe and gain much knowledge and skills.” 

Furthermore, in regards to the material provided, many participants found it to be very useful in reaching the learning objectives which were specified in the course description. This is shown by the following comment: 

After completing Objective 4, I have more knowledge to be able to look at the controls in place within the entity being audited. I can perform my financial auditing in a more effective and efficient manner and as a result I will be able to design and further implement audit procedures, and to document the procedures performed during to the audit.” 

Relevant training

Other participants went on to say that the course was very relevant to their jobs and that they will be able to use the knowledge that they had gained to train other colleagues within their workplaces and departments. Furthermore, many participants wanted to be informed of any other courses provided with the joint effort of UNITAR and IDI, especially on topics such as more advanced financial auditing as this course gave a basic overall foundation of the auditing area. 

The Director General of IDI, Mr. Magnus Borge, thanked the participants for their commitment, enthusiasm, and participation and encouraged them to use the risk-based approach in conducting financial audits in their own SAIs. The Director General also commented that "success will be ours when you have conducted and reported on financial audits by applying the risk-based approached that you have learnt from the course." 

Following the success of the courses as well as the overall collaboration between UNITAR and IDI, the two parties will meet again on 5 April 2013, in Geneva to review the project as well as to discuss future cooperation.

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