Our foolish decision to expand NATO into Russia’s face — after the fall of the Soviet Union — hardened post-Communist Russia into an enemy instead of a potential partner, creating the ideal conditions for an anti-Western autocrat like Putin to emerge. (Imagine if Russia, a country with which we have zero trade or border disputes, were OUR ally today vis-à-vis China and Iran and not THEIR ally in disputes with us.) Meanwhile, the failure of the U.S. interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq to produce the pluralism and decency hoped for after 9/11, coupled with the 2008 economic crisis and the current pandemic — together with the general hollowing out of America’s manufacturing base — has weakened both American self-confidence and the world’s confidence in America. The result? Right when China, Russia and Iran are challenging the post-World War II order more aggressively than ever, many wonder whether the United States has the energy, allies and resources for a new geopolitical brawl. “Just because communism is gone — and we don’t have two political and economic systems that claim universal legitimacy competing to govern every country — doesn’t mean that ideological considerations have disappeared from international politics,” Mandelbaum argued to me. Regimes like those in China, Iran and Russia feel much more threatened — more than we think — by democracy, Mandelbaum added. During the first decade of the 21st century, these regimes were able to generate sufficient public support through economic progress. But after that proved more difficult in the second decade of the 21st century, “the leaders of these countries need to find a substitute, and the one they have chosen is hypernationalism.” Are we up to the challenge? I’m pretty sure we can keep a more aggressive, nationalistic Russia and Iran deterred at a reasonable cost, and with the help of our traditional allies. But China is another question. So we’d better understand where our strengths and weaknesses lie, as well as China’s. China is now a true peer competitor in the military, technological and economic realms, except — except in one critical field: designing and manufacturing the most advanced microprocessors and logic and memory chips that are the base layer for artificial intelligence, machine learning, high-performance computing, electric vehicles, telecommunications — i.e., the whole digital economy that we’re moving into. China’s massive, state-led effort to develop its own vertically integrated microchip industry has so far largely failed to master the physics and hardware to manipulate matter at the nano-scale, a skill required to mass produce super-sophisticated microprocessors. However, just a few miles away from China sits the largest and most sophisticated contract chip maker in the world: Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company. According to the Congressional Research Service, TSMC is one of only three manufacturers in the world that fabricate the most advanced semiconductor chips — and by far the biggest. The second and third are Samsung and Intel. Most chip designers, like IBM, Qualcomm, Nvidia, AMD (and even Intel to some extent) now use TSMC and Samsung to make the microprocessors they design. But, just as important, three of the five companies that make the super-sophisticated lithography machines, tools and software used by TSMC and others to actually make the microchips — Applied Materials, Lam Research Corporation and KLA Corporation — are based in the United States. (The other two are Dutch and Japanese.) China largely lacks this expertise. As such, the American government has the leverage to restrict TSMC from making advanced chips for Chinese companies.https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/27/opinion/china-us-2034.html
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“There are two steps to this,” Blann said. “They need to follow the rules that go along with the grants, sure, that’s complying. But they also have to have a good system of internal control over compliance, and that’s where first-time single auditees may be a little light in terms of having developed those policies and procedures to give themselves a good shot at compliance.” Meanwhile, auditors need to also be especially careful when evaluating and testing clients’ internal controls, because of the changes in the work environment. Many grant recipients have increased work-from-home operations and rapidly installed new technology that has enabled them to succeed amid the pandemic’s disruption. But these actions also can create gaps in internal controls that auditors will need to identify. The addendum’s order that expenditures and lost revenue associated with the PRF should not be included on the SEFA until Dec. 31, 2020, year ends or later applies only to the PRF and not to other COVID-19 funding. Further, certain of the new programs allow for lost revenue to be claimed by recipients, in addition to expenditures. This is a new concept, and auditors will have to get used to the idea of addressing lost revenue on the SEFA. “Once agencies provide the rules around lost revenue, they may seem weird, but they are the rules, and we are a profession that’s really good at learning and following rules,” Blann said. “So just do your homework and you’ll be fine.” Forhan advises firms that possess ample resources and perform many single audits to devote one person or team as a specialist in each of the new federal funding sources, such as the PRF, the Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF), and the Education Stabilization Fund, including the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund. Those specialists can scrutinize the individual programs carefully on all of a firm’s audits to make sure nothing is overlooked on the SEFA and that engagement teams are educated on the requirements. Because the rules have changed over time, documentation — which always is a critical factor in any kind of audit — is especially important. This duty starts with the client, who should be documenting the rules followed and conclusions reached. Subsequently, auditors need to document how they interpreted the clients’ conclusions, the rules followed, and the professional judgment applied. Blann said that because many of the rules for these new programs appear on federal agency websites and have changed over time, it’s not enough for an auditor to document that they looked up the rules online. The rules and the website links where they are posted may change. “It’s really important to pull that material down and put it in your workpapers and not just make a generic reference to a website and hope it will still be there when your peer review comes along,” Blann said. Forhan advises that auditors should carefully explain to clients the reason for any audit delays, what to expect, and what the client’s responsibilities are, especially when a recipient needs a single audit for the first time.https://www.journalofaccountancy.com/news/2021/feb/single-audits-during-coronavirus-relief-funding-surge.html