Fort Belvoir, Va. –
How does auditing today compare to the experience of DCAA’s first auditors?
In the 1960’s, paper and pencils ruled the workplace. Contractors would deliver their General Ledger, a voluminous book documenting their costs for the year, to their DCAA office.
The auditors would use 14 column paper to document and analyze the costs. If it was a large contractor, they might tape two sheets together to have sufficient columns for a “quick analysis.” Audit reports were handwritten and if the supervisor made changes, it was done with a pen. For major edits, auditors would use scissors to cut out sections and tape in the new information, the original cut and paste. To finalize the audit report, the administrative staff would type the handwritten draft reports, a tedious and time consuming process. Final reports would fill a cardboard box. Auditors joked about auditing “by the pound.”
For calculations, the auditors had a Frieden Automatic Calculator, which had 100 keys and weighed 43 pounds. It was the first calculator and could perform four calculations; addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. The best auditors could use the calculator without having to look at the keys. In the 1970s, hand held calculators were widely available and auditors would often purchase one at their own expense because it was so much easier and faster.
As businesses began using computers, DCAA began leveraging technology to improve the audit process and automate manual processes. At first DCAA programmers wrote audit specific programs in the BASIC computer language that were transferred to the computer using paper tape. It often took longer to write the program than to run it but it was still a vast improvement over manual methods and allowed for complex calculations.
In the early 1980’s, DCAA began using desktop computers, first with dual floppy discs and later with hard drives. Early software included a spreadsheet program (Multiplan), a data base management program (dBASEII), and a word-processing program (MultiMate). Each office would have two to four computers and one printer. The information in the desktop was transferred to servers which contained the first type of audit management program enabling better management
As automation advanced, so did its use and application in DCAA audits. Automation greatly increased productivity and has ushered in the office of today where every auditor has a laptop connected to the network and uses Microsoft office programs and CaseWare audit management software. Audit reports are no longer stored in boxes but instead are electronically stored on a server. What hasn’t changed? Cutting and pasting is still done but now instead of scissors and tape, it’s just a couple clicks of a mouse.