Auditor Spotlight: Brian Element

To discuss the value of automating data analysis, CaseWare Analytics recently spoke with Brian Element, CPA, CA, CIDA, CISE, CFE, Financial Advisor at Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC). Read on for his insights.

Q: What is something you’ve achieved using data analytics?


A: One of my biggest achievements was accelerating the quarterly process of publicly posting contracts awarded by PSPC that exceeded $10,000 in value. It used to be that staff would analyze contracts using spreadsheets, and then spend several days cleaning up the information.


Using CaseWare IDEA, I automated the analysis, allowing staff to spend time following up on any inconsistencies rather than on manual data entry and manipulation. The use of IDEA also led to more accurate and complete departmental contracting information and to improved communication between stakeholders. This was a big eye-opener for management.


Q: At what phase of the audit do you find data analysis most beneficial?


A: It’s a great tool for any phase, but particularly during the planning/risk evaluation phase when you have to identify the areas with highest risk due to tight travel budgets, I use the summarize and extract features within IDEA to identify where the largest volume or riskiest transactions occurred, and from there substantiate which branches to visit.


Once you start the audit, data analysis software can provide a detailed breakdown of all transactions and perform tests on 100% of the data. For example, IDEA can recalculate tax amounts; or if you are looking at travel, it will reveal any duplicate payments. There are many different ways you can use the tool to cover many audit steps, letting you focus on high-risk transactions instead of many low-risk samples.


Q: What are your favorite IDEA functions?


A: I really like Summary. It’s a simple function, but it provides a wealth of information. By doing a summarization you can find potential problems or risky transactions, creating a better view of the financial information available for the audit.


I also love the scripts because I love to automate anything! A task that could take days to do manually can be automated and only take minutes—that’s huge! I enjoy it so much that I built a support site,, where people share tips and ask questions, often in areas I haven’t looked at before. It challenges me to find another way to use the software, so I get to learn something new while also helping others make their audits more efficient. It’s a win-win!


Disclaimer: The opinions expressed are the personal opinions of Brian Element and do not reflect of the opinions of the Government of Canada.


To learn more about how other auditors are using IDEA to improve their audits, check us out on SlideShare, where you can find more Auditor Spotlights and a variety of information and tips for using IDEA.



About Anu Sood:

Anu Sood is the Director of Product and Corporate Marketing at CaseWare Analytics and is responsible for the company’s global marketing strategy. Prior to CaseWare Analytics, Anu worked in various roles in the high-tech industry and her accomplishments range from writing software for telephone switches to launching a new global satellite communication service. Anu has extensive experience in strategic marketing, corporate communications, demand generation, content marketing, product management, product marketing and technology development.