IT attracts auditors' unwarranted advances

IT managers may be attracting the unwarranted advances of an auditor simply due to inefficient or completely non-existent digital record-keeping controls.

The rapid use of e-mail as a form of work-related correspondence has led to a disparity in official record keeping because many companies rely on printed documents as being ideal for this purpose when they are not.

National Archives of Australia acting director of record-keeping standards and policy, Kathryn Swan, said she isn't entirely sure if IT staff actually know how to keep records.

"We are not entirely sure that IT people understand that backing things up by placing information on a server is not actually record keeping," Swan said.

"Digital archiving involves creating and storing a packet of information around records or files that make the file manageable, known and relied on because the data, once archived, can account for reliable authenticity and you will know if someone has tampered with a particular record.

"It might be an urban myth but our information, after speaking to knowledge professionals, is that IT people are unsure how, for accountability purposes, records are important."

Digital record keeping in Australia is a relatively new process, one that has the ability to not only value-add to business but to ease the creation of an incorruptible auditing and archival trails for the public sector, allowing databases to become decentralised and ease the flow of information.

To do this would require not only a well-trained public service, but a robust approach to collating and storing the digital archives in a centralised and safe location, according to a series of publications from the National Archives of Australia.

The publications offer a practical guide to making, keeping and using digital records and are a result of the work the national archives has done into digital archiving over the past four years.

Previously, government employees were trained in the laws surrounding the task of physical record keeping; however, as more business is conducted online, those meticulous accounting traits might not be used in the private sector, according to Swan, causing a disparity of account information and the real possibility of 'doubling up' on data.

"E-business is about online transactions, which are records, and we need to keep a record of any transaction and can now capture that information in an unchangeable format with correct calculations that fit into a process that adheres to underlying business policies," Swan said.

CyberCommerce Australia managing director Bruce Richardson said most companies are busy selling, not archiving, e-commerce transactions. If the National Archives Centre was to accept data for storage from the private sector security auditor Peter Mercer said formatting issues would have to be eliminated.

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