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Audit Tips

June 20, 2022
5 Risks to Consider When Conducting Audits in the Post-COVID-19 Environment

Public sector auditors are used to building their audit programs on the changing realities of their organization. Risks are used to identify audit topics that are more likely to require assurance and advice on corrective measures which could be used by management, oversight bodies, and stakeholders.

A study conducted by the Government Internal Audit Canadian Council (GIACC), in conjunction with its partners on this project, the Institute of Internal auditors (IIA) of Canada and the Canadian Audit and Accountability Foundation (CAAF), aims to identify the unique risks faced and anticipated to be faced by Canadian governments – federal, provincial and territorial – in a post-COVID environment. Here are some of the top risks identified by senior public sector audit professionals and a review of the recent literature on risks.

Audit Tip 1


Cybersecurity is a major concern in Canada. According to a survey reported by the Canadian Security Magazine, 100% of respondent said they had suffered a security breach in the last 12 months and 98% said they plan to increase cyber defense spending in the coming year. The pandemic has acted as a powerful amplifier of this trend. In particular, the intensification of remote work has increased the exposure to various cybersecurity risks (for example: network security compromised by increased interactions with employees’ Wi-Fi; use of unsecured personal devices; vulnerabilities to phishing attacks; and extensive use of file sharing sites).

Audit Tip 2


COVID-19 has created many opportunities and incentives for frauds such as the reporting of fictitious revenues, fraudulent management estimates, improper timing of revenues, and fraudulent relief program applications. For example, an audit of the Office of the Auditor General of Ontario reported that $210M in COVID-19 support payments were received by ineligible businesses.

Audit Tip 3

Human Resources Management

COVID-19 has taken a huge toll on employees. Public sector organizations will be managing the impacts of this pandemic on their people for years to come. One of the key operational risks identified by a survey of GIACC members is related to human resources management. The literature review corroborated this diagnostic and found that COVID-19 has been disrupting the management of human resources across numerous sectors. Issues affected by COVID-19 revolve around employee well-being, flexible workforce, labour shortages, job loss, diversity equity and inclusion, leadership, and communication.

Audit Tip 4

Performance Measurement and Reporting

A notable risk is the lack of identification of key performance indicators and the low quality of underlying data and analysis provided in performance reports on government interventions related to the pandemic. Performance information is essential for the conduct of effective governance and to drive improvements. Auditors can provide assurance on this type of information as part of their regular audits.

Audit Tip 5

Unintended Impacts of Pandemic Response Measures

Massive government responses to major emergencies, like the pandemic measures, have the potential of causing considerable unintended impacts. For example, these could be the substantial economic costs, supply-chain disruptions, inflation, a deepening of inequality and poverty or the increased mortality rates resulting from delayed surgeries for patients suffering from cancer or other ailments.

The pandemic has been a game changer on every level. We are still assessing how it will impact all of us and for how long. Some of the risks we are confronted with have been around for a while but have been magnified by the pandemic. Some of these risks are brand-new and we are still pondering their magnitude. Public sector auditors will have to take them into account to maximize their contribution to better government programs and accountability.


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You can find further information about the GIACC Study, The Evolving Role of Internal Audit in the COVID‑19 Environment – A Study on Emerging Risks and their Management.

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