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Meeting ambitious e-government targets is an ongoing preoccupation for councils. District Audit is looking at how i...
Meeting ambitious e-government targets is an ongoing preoccupation for councils. District Audit is looking at how it can deliver services electronically and to this end, has just embarked on the biggest single change to audit approach in its history.

This month, District Audit started training staff on a system to electronically document and manage audits.

When the project started in March 2000, the evidence suggested e-audit could make time savings of up to 10%. The key aims include cutting the time spent documenting audits, making more available for delivering services.

The project will reduce storage costs for the six years of audit evidence which have to be retained. By enabling the status of different projects to be monitored, the system will help to project manage audits, as well as improving consistency in audit work nationally and improving knowledge management. Initially, e-audit will be rolled out at half of the District Audit's client councils. All audited councils should be using the system by 2003. Staff trained now should start to use the system immediately.

The most obvious difference presented by the project is that auditors will request information on disc or e-mail rather than printouts or photocopies. For most clients this shouldn't be difficult but auditors can continue paper-based work until some are better able to field electronic data.

The documentation and management tool used for e-audit is Teammate, developed by PricewaterhouseCoopers and used by the National Audit Office and Northern Ireland Audit Office. District Audit will become the biggest installation of the system to date, adding 1,400 new users.

The project provides a range of benefits, including functions that enable master files to be used by multiple users simultaneously. Much of the audit can be done off-site. While this won't mean the end of face-to-face client contact, it should minimise the disruption caused by audit work.

After the initial roll-out, a data repository function will be piloted. With the existing Client Intelligence System, this will provide a very powerful knowledge base. The software is currently being used to trial remote audits, with a team in Truro doing housing benefit audits at Southampton City Council and West Dorset DC. Audited bodies, District Audit and the Audit Commission should all see real benefits in the near future.

Ian Howse

E-audit project manager, District Audit

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