Group audits are almost always more complex than single entity audits and the provisions of the EU Audit Directive added to the work required by the group engagement team (GET) in relation to material and significant components. The FRC clarified in its Staff Guidance Note that where a component is significant, or it is material and requires audit evidence as part of the group audit, the group engagement team must carry out an evaluation and review of that work. In many cases this review has been done by visiting the component and/or the component auditors to directly review relevant parts of the work they have done, which is contributing to the group audit opinion.
Even in normal times the requirement can be logistically challenging, but in the current lock-down that many parts of the world are suffering, it might seem nigh on impossible to meet the requirements. However, there are sometimes alternatives available, such as the electronic transmission of audit files, so that they can be reviewed remotely. Or, if the data cannot be transmitted, it may be possible to review it live through a screen share on products such as Microsoft Teams, Skype for business, Webex etc.
The key audit partner (KAP) will need to consider how, when and if, the relevant audit evidence can be gathered. This may well mean deadlines moving, to allow different plans to be put in place and for staff not being available due to illness or quarantine. The ICAEW has issued a more detailed paper on this, which may be helpful. If, having considered all the alternatives, the key audit partner doesn’t feel they will be able to meet the requirements, they should contact the FRC for advice.
Ultimately, you have to try to ensure you and your staff and partners stay safe, but be flexible enough to consider alternative ways of working which may be available.