September 2003

Single Audits
By Rhett D. Harrell

Aspen Publishers, Inc.; 620 pages; $225 paperback; ISBN: 0735532788
Reviewed by David C. Ashenfarb

Single Audits is one of several books published by Aspen Publishers’ Law & Business Division in its ongoing Miller Series. The book includes a CD-ROM with several aids that can be integrated into a firm’s workpapers. The Miller Engagement Guides work with ePaceENGAGEMENT to achieve a paperless audit workflow. A self-study CPE course is available for a recommended 10 credit hours. The book is written to an intermediate level and best used by a practitioner with a basic understanding of Government Auditing Standards and OMB Circular A-133. It is an excellent supplementary reference source to official pronouncements for first-time auditors in these areas.

For the novice, the book starts with a fairly comprehensive chapter introducing the single-audit process and reviewing the basic concepts of the three levels of auditing standards: Generally Accepted Auditing Standards, Government Auditing Standards, and Single Audit Requirements. A chapter is devoted to each level, including additional requirements for fieldwork and reporting. The OMB A-133 summary includes a brief but useful single-audit history, giving the reader a good perspective on how the existing standards were formulated.

The remaining detailed discussion of performing a single audit will be more practical for experienced practitioners in their everyday work. The author includes in-depth interpretations and practical guidance on audit planning, determining major programs, evaluating internal controls, testing compliance, and audit reporting results. A separate chapter on sampling outlines several strategies that could be applied to single audits.

Single Audits’ strength lies in how the author explains the concepts and requirements of A-133 and the Compliance Supplements, and integrates these concepts into a practical audit approach. There are many useful suggestions for structuring audit programs, designing tests, and documenting the work performed. The approach to documenting internal controls is insightful. Harrell has created a worksheet that asks the auditor to identify at least one control for each of the five internal control components for every compliance requirement that must be tested. This reviewer prefers this approach to the more commonly used checklist approach found in many other guides.

The interactive CD-ROM includes templates, checklists, and audit programs for all workpapers illustrated throughout the book. One particularly useful feature is that documents are in both Word and .pdf format, so they can be customized for a particular client or a firm’s overall quality-control needs. In addition, the disk contains federal government documents (including the full Yellow Book and recent Compliance Supplements); audit programs, sample reports, workpapers, and letters; and documents from the President’s Council on Integrity and Efficiency. The only difficulty is that filenames coincide with the text, making locating a particular file without the book difficult.

Harrell points out that any auditor responsible for planning, directing, conducting substantial portions of fieldwork, or reporting on governmental audits must complete 80 CPE hours every two years, with 24 of those hours directly related to Yellow Book audits. Single Audits not only provided this reviewer with practical guidance on performing single audits, but also provided the impetus to challenge existing policies for performing and documenting A-133 audits.

This book can be used in several ways. The CPE that it provides is as good as this reviewer has seen for a self-study course in government auditing. It is also a strong reference tool to be used during planning, performing, and reporting on single audits. Practitioners looking for ways to streamline their approach and document their audits more efficiently will likely find several useful suggestions they can implement every day. This alone is worth the price of the book.

Single Audits is a highly recommend addition to the library of any firm performing single audits.

David C. Ashenfarb, CPA, is a partner of Schall & Ashenfarb CPAs, LLC, in New York, N.Y. He is current chair of the NYSSCPA’s Not-for-Profit Organizations Committee.

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