News Evaluation

Sep 30, 2021

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President Joe Biden is asking OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, to draft an emergency temporary standard to mandate COVID-19 vaccines or regular testing for employees of large businesses. How exactly does a standard like this get made especially under these circumstances? Some people love rules and making them. “I am enthusiastic about rulemaking,” said Linda Rosenstock, UCLA professor and former head of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, which works with OSHA. Rosenstock said it was a big deal to have a directive straight from White House. David Michaels, an epidemiologist and professor at George Washington University and the longest-serving head of OSHA, is in agreement. “I don’t recall a presidential order requiring a standard. I don’t think that has happened before,” said Michaels. The pressure is on, he added. OSHA advisors first have to prove COVID-19 is a grave risk to workers, Michaels says that’s pretty clear. Next: Is the standard effective and feasible why not try this out for employers? Then come the lawyers to get the policy court-ready. This is not David Michaels’ favorite part. “On one level, I hate it, because it really slows down the process,” he said. Winning legal battles, he added, was worth it.  “That does feel good, because once it’s out there and survived court cases then, you know, it’s there, it forever changes the world. And that’s what’s so rewarding,” said Michaels. Some states have their own OSHA. According to Debbie Berkowitz, a former OSHA senior official, the government has an answer if they resist federal standards. “OK, well, if you don’t do it, we’re gonna come take over your state plan, because the law is you have to have as equal protection as federal OSHA,” Berkowitz said. Or, she added, states can come up with more effective rules — something she encourages.

https://www.marketplace.org/2021/09/10/how-exactly-does-osha-make-rules/

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“Some of the newly created programs are still under development, and the guidance may or may not be included in the 2021 Supplement.” Like last year, auditors will again be waiting for additional OMB guidance to be issued in the second half of the calendar year. Some guidance in the 2020 Supplement and Addendum is no longer applicable because money has been added to some relief programs and rules have changed. For some programs, “agencies have changed what auditors are being asked to test in the 2021 Supplement, so auditors can’t rely on the 2020 Supplement or Addendum for their 2021 testing,” Oakley said. “For new programs created out of the American Rescue Plan Act, there is really no audit guidance until the 2021 Addendum comes out, which will push out the ability to complete single audits,” Oakley added. “Auditors should be transparent with their clients about the timing of what’s happening and set expectations, because this could be the second year in a row of a delay in the ability to complete single audits,” McCormick suggested. All the session presenters recommend that auditors ask their clients a lot of questions this year about awards received and how the funds were used, to ensure completeness and accuracy. “There should be a lot of conversations, not just swapping paper back and forth, to understand the funding and uses,” Oakley said. Ward added, “And it may be necessary to talk to those outside of finance, including officers and boards of directors, because finance may not have been responsible for securing and administering COVID-19 funds in all organizations.” Internal controls over compliance must be tested in single audits, and it is critical for auditors to understand how controls are designed and how they operated during the audit period. “For new programs, even for a longtime client, auditors should not assume controls are the same as for other major programs but need to take a step back and understand the new processes and new compliance requirements,” McCormick said.  The pandemic and remote work create additional audit challenges relating to assessment of controls. “Because controls could have operated differently throughout the period under audit and based on how organizations chose to spend the funds, it’s important to gain an understanding of the program’s use of funds and how controls could differ based on different activities,” Ward said. Oakley added, “In addition, controls could have been lacking or bypassed, which could lead to findings and require more testing, and how the client has been monitoring programs remotely can create higher risk.” An important part of audit planning is determining which programs are “major programs” as defined by the Uniform Guidance (see “ Single Audit: Pandemic Aid and Major Program Determinations .”) “There is an OMB formula to apply, but this year federal agencies are designating more programs coming out of the pandemic funding as ‘higher risk,’ which is not a designation we see very often and could have a significant impact on the formula,” McCormick said. “The programs we thought we were going to audit this year may be different after considering the higher risk designations.” “Because more programs are expected to be identified as higher risk by OMB, there will be a need for more documentation of the evaluation of Type A and Type B programs,” Ward said Oakley said: “Very unusual scenarios are occurring now that can lead to errors. For example, the timing of when expenditures should be reported on the SEFA [Schedule of Expenditures of Federal Awards] is different for the Provider Relief Fund program and the Higher Education subprogram of the Educations Stabilization Fund than we have seen historically.” Because of the increases in programs to be audited and changes in requirements, it is difficult for auditors to be experts in every one of the new programs. Oakley recommends that firms designate individuals to become subject matter experts in individual programs. Many firms are having to train staff auditors on performing single audits for the first time, and this is not an area that can be easily picked up. “The Compliance Supplement is essential to single audits,” Ward said. “As auditors prepare for their upcoming single audits, Appendices V (List of Changes for the 2021 Compliance Supplement) and VII (Other Audit Advisories), in addition to Part 4, will be key for auditors to read and understand.” The AICPA’s GAQC resources can be very helpful, including archived webcasts. “There have been many more GAQC alerts during the pandemic,” Ward said. “Auditors should pay attention to them and not skip over any of them, because new guidance is always coming out.” Oakley noted that the GAQC’s pandemic-related information is available to the public without having to be a member. “Start the planning process early, ensuring that you allow for time to get up to speed,” Ward said. “This will be a year that you should not go at it alone.

https://www.journalofaccountancy.com/news/2021/aug/single-audits-success-compliance-supplements.html