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There are four key factors that affect the precision of analytical procedures:
1 Disaggregation
The more detailed the level at which analytical procedures are performed, the greater the potential precision of the procedures. Analytical procedures performed at a high level may mask significant, but offsetting, differences that are more likely to come to the auditor’s attention when procedures are performed on disaggregated data.
The objective of the audit procedure will determine whether data for an analytical procedure should be disaggregated and to what degree it should be disaggregated. Disaggregated analytical procedures can be best thought of as looking at the composition of a balance(s) based on time (eg by month or by week) and the source(s) (eg by geographic region or by product) of the underlying data elements. The reliability of the data is also influenced by the comparability of the information available and the relevance of the information available.
2 Data reliability
The more reliable the data is, the more precise the expectation. The data used to form an expectation in an analytical procedure may consist of external industry and economic data gathered through independent research. The source of the information available is particularly important. Internal data produced from systems and records that are covered by the audit, or that are not subject to manipulation by persons in a position to influence accounting activities, are generally considered more reliable.
3 Predictability
There is a direct correlation between the predictability of the data and the quality of the expectation derived from the data. Generally, the more precise an expectation is for an analytical procedure, the greater will be the potential reliability of that procedure. The use of non-financial data (eg number of employees, occupancy rates, units produced) in developing an expectation may increase the auditor’s ability to predict account relationships. However, the information is subject to data reliability considerations mentioned above.
4 Type of analytical procedures
There are several types of analytical procedures commonly used as substantive procedures and will influence the precision of the expectation. The auditor chooses among these procedures based on his objectives for the procedures (ie purpose of the test, desired level of assurance).
(1) Trend analysis – the analysis of changes in an account over time.
(2) Ratio analysis – the comparison, across time or to a benchmark, of relationships between financial statement accounts and between an account and non-financial data.
(3) Reasonableness testing – the analysis of accounts, or changes in accounts between accounting periods, that involves the development of a model to form an expectation based on financial data, non - financial data, or both.
Each of the types uses a different method to form an expectation. They are ranked from lowest to highest in order of their inherent precision. Scanning analytics are different from the other types of analytical procedures in that scanning analytics search within accounts or other entity data to identify anomalous individual items, while the other types use aggregated financial information.
If the auditor needs a high level of assurance from a substantive analytical procedure, s/he should develop a relatively precise expectation by selecting an appropriate analytical procedure (eg a reasonableness test instead of a simple trend or ‘flux’ analysis). Thus, determining which type of substantive analytical procedure to use is a matter of professional judgment.
In summary, there is a direct correlation between the type of analytical procedure selected and the precision it can provide. Generally, the more precision inherent in an analytical procedure used, the greater the potential reliability of that procedure.
Key messages:
? Substantive analytical procedures play an important part in a risk-based audit approach.
? Properly designed and executed analytical procedures can allow the auditor to achieve audit objectives more efficiently by reducing or replacing other detailed audit testing.
? The effectiveness of analytical procedures depends on the auditor’s understanding of the entity and its environment and the use of professional judgment; therefore, analytical procedures should be performed or reviewed by senior members of the engagement team.
? It is vital that the analytical procedures be sufficiently documented to enable an experienced auditor, having no previous connection with the audit, to understand the work done (ISA 230).
Last updated: 20 Apr 2015