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News | May 19, 2020

Technology and Communication Overcome Teleworking Challenges

By DCAA Staff Writer

DCAA began teleworking 100 percent of the time in mid-March. Overnight, homes became offices, and the normal way of conducting an audit was no longer possible.  Social distancing and stay-at-home orders meant DCAA’s auditors could no longer physically visit a contractor to observe processes, verify procedures, and pick-up documents. Delays in audits mean delays in goods for warfighters and payments for contractors. Both auditors and contractors needed to work together to overcome the challenges of teleworking. Working together they did and in the process, solidified relationships and increased productivity. As of the end of April, DCAA has issued 1,456 audit reports, about 225 more than this time last year.

When one thinks of an audit, the picture that comes to mind is of a person staring at a spreadsheet verifying numbers. DCAA audits do check math, but a large part of our audits is verifying the processes and procedures of the contractor, which is done through direct observation of contractor personnel. Since direct observation is no longer possible, a technological solution was found – screen sharing via Skype, WEBEX, or MS Teams.  The Northern New England Branch office used MS Teams to perform test to payment procedures, which traces contractor financial transactions to source documents such as cancelled checks, electronic funds transfers, bank statements, or other evidence of payment. Using MS Teams, the auditors watched the contractor’s personnel generate reports and financial statements to verify payment.  As the auditors observed, they captured screen shots as evidence for their audit report. The process was very efficient and effectively connected personnel in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Texas.  The office continues to use MS Teams and is confident they will complete the audit on time.

Auditors do spend quite a bit of time poring over contractor documents and some have access to the contractors’ management information systems via a dedicated terminal in the office. Once DCAA moved to full-time telework, this access was lost. If a solution was not found, the impact would have been a delay for audits. While auditors could drive over to the contractor to pick-up documents, this would have been inefficient and sharing among the audit team would be a challenge. Communication with the contractor resulted in a simple solution - providing contractor laptops to select DCAA auditors. Offices are now able to pull reports as needed, reduce the burden on contractor personnel, and get data faster.

Leveraging technology platforms, creativity, and working together has allowed DCAA auditors to continue their work while teleworking with no impact to productivity.