Overview: Audit Opinions and Findings

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When auditors assess your handling of grant funds, they’re not looking to ding you at every possible point with negative findings. Their job is to provide an official opinion about your financial statements that is unqualified, qualified, or disclaimed. An unqualified opinion means that your financial statements are free of material error and may be relied upon. 


A qualified opinion means that your financial statements are auditable but have financial or compliance issues that materially affect one or more funds within the overall financial statement. A disclaimed opinion is very bad. It means your financial statements are not reliable, have material negative findings, or are not capable of being audited.


In auditing your organization, the auditor reviews your financial statements, your financial policies and procedures, and your systems of internal control over money and compliance requirements. There are two broad categories of findings. A financial finding relates directly to financial statements or some aspect of your organization’s financial controls.


A compliance finding usually relates to matters of law, policy, or conditions associated with the receipt of the grant award. A compliance finding can be material or non-material. A material finding is a serious matter because it indicates serious issues concerning internal controls or the integrity of your financial statements. Non-material findings are less serious in that they do not call the integrity of your financial statements or system of internal controls into question.


All organizations should strive for a clean audit, but no organization is perfect. The very best organizations can receive audit findings even when the overall financial and audit picture is excellent. When your organization receives a finding, it’s critical to respond quickly to audit findings and to resolve the problems promptly. 


Learn how to tame the rules and regulations, focus on excellence, and embrace accountability in the Grant Management Essentials training.


— Henry Flood, Senior Advisor for Grant Administration



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