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MS Access – Best Avoided April 9, 2016

Posted by Audit Monkey in The Joy & Pain of Internal Audit.
Tags: , , , , ,

As I mentioned in my previous post, I’ve been quite active on goingconcern.com and the forum. Despite the fact I’m not an external auditor, there’s often some good discussion topics.

One recent topic was discussing the merits of MS Access for accounting, financial reporting and auditing. (The full article can be read here and my contributions are included therein.) Apparently Access was more stable than Excel. Needless to say, alarm bells started to ring in my head as MS Access fell out of fashion over 15 years ago as one, it cannot be used by multiple users across a network with ease. Second, when ‘Have A Go IT’ or ‘Have A Go Accountants’ have written a program in VBA, it has become embedded as a key process but somewhere along the line the program code becomes corrupted and swaths of data are lost.

I’m surprised that the topic has even surfaced. Sure, there is the old argument about the limitations of Excel. This runs along the lines of Excel is being used too heavily for financial reporting, has too many lines and formula, so a bespoke accounting package should be introduced. But by implementing a bespoke package this usually creates the same issues you were trying to avoid, i.e. reliance on key people for coding and technical advice and keeping your fingers crossed the system doesn’t fall over. Usually bigger systems such as SAP, AS400 and SAS are used.

Moreover, there are software packages on the market which will validate spreadsheets and highlight anomalies, e.g. circular formula, hidden tabs, hidden data tables. I’m slightly loathed to name the packages in question as I don’t see why I should do the firms marketing for them. Nevertheless, the old days of living on a wing and a prayer with Excel and worrying that it may contain erroneous data due to coding bugs are in decline. The irony is however, some Accounting staff don’t like the accountability these oversight (read monitoring) packages provide and are reluctant to implement them. I expect the resistance stems from Heads of Finance not wishing to be exposed as fallible on the discovery of errors and incorrect calculations or wanting wriggle room in the accounts just in case.

To save looking for reasons not to use Access, here’s another link. I’m sure there other resources out there which can be located from a simple google search.


1. Richard - April 13, 2016

Not Access, but apposite nevertheless http://xkcd.com/1667/

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