Guy Biggin, regional Non Profits lead at national audit, tax, advisory and risk firm, Crowe, outlines what a good procurement process looks like when it comes to the annual audit.
The annual audit – a time to dread, a necessary evil, or an opportunity to benefit your organisation? It is clearly a matter of opinion, but following the right processes and finding the best auditor for your business can add value, making the audit a rewarding and beneficial experience.
Ensuring you select the right auditor is important and having a good tender process goes someway in helping this. However, it is very easy to, unintentionally, create barriers along the procurement process.
This article sets out the points to consider in order to produce a good tender and, in turn, maximise value.
Be clear about what you want to achieve from an audit. Do you want an in-depth audit which helps you meet objectives and add value, or do you just want the basic service for the lowest cost? The former should always be the priority, but where cost is a factor, it is important to strike a balance to ensure you receive the best possible service.
Don’t just go through the motions – it’s time consuming and disappointing for all involved.
If you want a market 'price check' – get one. If it is your policy to re-tender, then it would be advisable to challenge the appropriate Board to put in place measures to ensure an unbiased process. Think about the questions you ask and give the audit firms the opportunity to show their understanding of your organisation, the risks and challenges you face, and demonstrate how they can help.
Be open for discussion – allow fact finding visits, discussions and the sharing of questions.
Highlight your tender through many communication routes, such as direct contact, tendering websites, your own website and social media. Making your tender accessible shows you are open to being approached by firms and helps attract new bidders. Hiding it, or only contacting a few known firms, means you could be missing out on the best auditor for you.
The National Housing Federation is now considering developing a central listing of audit firms, something which would be beneficial for the sector.
Have realistic expectations of timings – a sufficient understanding of your organisation takes time, so give adequate time and access to allow this to take place.
Tenders often set out hurdles that can be unnecessarily difficult to achieve. Make sure that what you are asking for is actually representative of what you want, and not just a tactical way of whittling the firms down. For example, is a firm's location truly important given modern technology and a willingness to travel? The best audit firm for you may not be on your doorstep, but can still be there for every meeting and reach every deadline.
Audit firms strive for excellence, which is exactly what you should look for. Peripheral factors, such as location, should not be the primary concern during the procurement process, but rather finding a firm with the ability to provide you with the best service that meets your audit needs.
The housing sector is fast-paced, innovative and challenging, but it is also one at risk of inadvertently discouraging audit firms from opting to work within it.
How can you help? Create open tenders with no unnecessary barriers. Offer the opportunity for audit firms to contact you to ask questions to understand your organisation. Ultimately, most are looking for the same thing, a robust audit from a good firm, with a good relationship that adds real value.