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​Auditing in an Uncooperative Organization​

Building strong relationships with clients can lead to increased trust and understanding.​

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​For an internal auditor, an uncooperative organization may be characterized as one in which it is difficult to do his or her job. This may be because of a client's resistance to change, lack of trust in internal audit, viewing the function unfavorably, or not understanding the role of internal audit. Any of these scenarios can cause the client to resist working collaboratively with auditors whose job it is to make positive changes in the organization. Internal auditors are supposed to be trusted advisors, so this can be a challenging situation, especially for new auditors. 

Turbulent organizational environments or poor communication and cooperation between internal auditors and clients can exacerbate the problem. But lack of trust and understanding about the role of internal audit can cause the most harm. Trust can take years of effort to build and it is easy to destroy. Even though internal auditors do their job based on facts, they need to have good relationships with other employees in the organization to ensure long-lasting cooperation. When audit clients understand what internal audit does, they are less likely to respond with statements like, "Your findings are not true," "We don't have time for you," or "We're not implementing your recommendations."

Several suggestions may help internal auditors change the mindset of uncooperative employees while building themselves up as trusted advisors. 

Communicate Directly Talk to people face to face as often as possible. Emails cannot convey moods, feelings, or body language. Auditors should use every opportunity to have direct contact and communication with clients. That will not only enable auditors to talk to clients more easily, but also puts them in a position to get additional information and react appropriately in difficult situations.

Empathize and Understand Understanding the context of someone's reaction is essential when approaching clients. If auditors show understanding of their clients' situation, or auditors recognize the pressure the client is under, it is much easier to gain the client's trust and get buy-in on audit findings. Listening and responding with empathy can foster better working relationships overall.

Have a Positive Attitude While working with clients, a positive approach toward the client might be one of the most important aspects of internal auditors' work. Auditors should avoid presenting their findings for effect, restrain themselves from sensationalism, and try to present positive aspects of their work. They should explain to clients how implementing corrective actions on findings will benefit them. Auditors should use every opportunity to give positive feedback to their clients and talk about their clients' collaboration to higher management.

Show Cooperation Another critical element of a successful audit is cooperation. A willingness to cooperate makes it easier for internal auditors to establish trust with clients. Auditors should be available to their clients. They should provide them with relevant information on time, organize regular status meetings, send reminders, and be available for meetings at their request.

Be Professional Internal auditors must remain professional, objective, and independent at all times to conform with Standard 1100: Independence and Objectivity. Even when auditors are kind and positive, they should not abandon their fact-based conclusions in exchange for good cooperation from their clients (see "Social Capital Pays Dividends​"). 

Escalate, When Necessary If internal auditors cannot accomplish their job by being cooperative, empathetic, and open to clients, they should choose the option of escalation. This might be the only way some clients will take auditors seriously. Depending on the client's personality, it may be necessary to demonstrate the auditor's role and influence to establish an appropriate long-term relationship. 

Be a Change Catalyst Internal auditors should not be afraid to propose changes. This is especially true in uncooperative organizations. Typically, the environment in uncooperative organizations is characterized by frequent changes, so employees might be even more open to changes than in other organizations. Every auditor might be faced with situations in which proposed changes are challenged from many sides, but this should not be viewed as an obstacle. Effective internal auditors can convince management to take action on issues identified and implement their proposed recommendations.

Contribute to Efficiency Internal audit findings and recommendations should not only be used for correcting what is wrong, but also for improving or streamlining the use of available resources. If work efficiency can be improved and resources freed up for other purposes, internal audit should point it out. In turbulent organizations, which typically lack resources, these kinds of findings will be appreciated by clients. 

Get Involved Auditors should involve themselves in all current projects, actions, campaigns, and any other activity the organization is undertaking. This will not only keep auditors updated, but it will also show they are interested in future developments in the organization. However, junior members of internal audit departments should undertake these kinds of initiatives only with permission of internal audit management.​

Be Creative Internal auditors play a role in creating and organizing the internal audit engagement, from designing the audit program and procedures to workpapers and audit reports. Although no two audits are alike, auditors should make their work as interesting as possible for themselves and their clients. In this way, auditors' work will be much easier and motivating, and feel like less of a burden. Although these kinds of activities primarily relate to lead auditors, junior auditors also can express their creativity through proposing possible work improvements.

A Strong Relationship

Building trust is a long process. Auditors may encounter many obstacles, unpleasant people, and bad days, but they share with their audit clients a commitment to the same goal — the success of the organization. Practitioners are in a position to promote the profession so that audit clients better understand internal audit's role in business, which can result in less resistance during audits. By building trust, clients are more likely to view auditors as the advisors and partners that they are. The better an auditor's relationship with his or her clients, the more open they will be to the auditor's critiques and suggestions for improvements. That can not only make the auditor's job easier, but it also is a win-win situation for the organization. ​

Maja Milosavljevic
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About the Author

 

 

Maja MilosavljevicMaja Milosavljevic<p>​​​Maja Milosavljevic, ​CIA, CRMA, is senior internal auditor at Sberbank Europe AG in Vienna and a 2015 <em>Internal Auditor</em> Emerging Leader.</p>https://iaonline.theiia.org/authors/Pages/Maja-Milosavljevic.aspx

 

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