Assurance services are evaluations and assessments that focus on identifying the quality of processes, procedures, and general operations. Often associated with the evaluation of accounting records and procedures, the main focus of assurance services is to confirm the accuracy and proper maintenance of the accounting records, and thus assure all interested parties that there are no irregularities in the records themselves. This same general approach can also be applied to the evaluation of procedures within governmental organizations, various departments within a business organization, and even with the function of a non-profit organization.
In terms of assurance services that are associated with financial matters, the audit is one of the most common of all types of assurance processes. An audit of the financial records of a business or other organization can help identify the presence of any errors in posting line items to the accounting books, as well as make sure that general accounting principles are being followed in the maintenance of those accounting records. Financial assurance services are often provided by certified public accountants, and may be conducted at the request of the business, or at the direction of a governmental agency.
The general idea of assurance services can also be used to assess the efficiency of the operational procedures of an organization. Here, the emphasis is on looking closely at how things are done, and determining if those processes are being followed in a way that allows the desired result to emerge. The individual who is auditing the procedures is not so much concerned with the efficiency of the procedures themselves, only that those procedures are implemented properly and are being followed on a day to day basis. As long as it is possible to confirm that all involved parties are in compliance with the operational procedures, the purpose of the assessment is considered fulfilled, and the auditor can honestly state or assure that all is in order.
It is important to note that assurance services are not focused on correcting any existing issues, or even refining processes so they are more efficient. The idea is to simply confirm or deny that the current circumstances are what they should be, based on the data at hand. This does not mean that subsequent actions may not focus on refining or enhancing various processes or procedures in order to improve accuracy or efficiency. However, those actions should be seen as outside the scope of the assurance itself, even when this process of refining or changing policies and procedures comes about due to the findings of the assurance.