​Proposed Changes to IIA Standards Will Raise the Bar Again

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The IIA has unveiled proposed changes to its International Standards for the Professional Practice of Internal Auditing (Standards), and announced a 90-day exposure period — Feb. 1 to April 30 — for public comment. The IIA has again proposed numerous changes that will raise the bar for the internal audit profession. I encourage every internal audit​ practitioner to review these important proposed changes, and to weigh in by participating in the survey.

I'll go over some of the proposed changes below, but I'd like to make a point about the crucial role that the Standards play in the day-to-day operations of internal audit functions around the world. It is important to understand that the Standards apply to all practitioners, from the greenest recruit to CAEs and other heads of internal audit. I wrote about this previously in a blog that stressed that, ultimately, Standards conformance enhances the reliability of internal audit's work and the stature of our profession.

As I wrote then, "We are all responsible for conforming with the Standards by maintaining an impartial, unbiased attitude and avoiding conflicts of interest, by possessing the knowledge and competencies to do our jobs effectively, and by applying the care and skill expected of a prudent and competent audit professional."

With this in mind, I encourage all practitioners to carefully consider any proposed change to this all-important framework for performing and promoting internal audit.

The first thing that is evident from a review of the proposed changes is that the men and women who comprise the International Internal Audit Standards Board (IIASB) have been extremely busy over the past year. There literally are scores of proposed changes to the standards — many of which are proposed wording or technical adjustments reflecting the passage of time and the need to realign the Standards with contemporary terminology. However, there are several important changes that (if adopted) will clarify or impose additional responsibilities on CAEs, internal auditors, and those who undertake external quality assessments of internal audit functions.

The most significant changes proposed to the Standards are focused on three areas:

  • Enhancing existing standards on communications, and quality assurance.
  • Creating two new standards addressing objectivity in assurance and consulting roles, as well as addressing new roles internal audit functions are taking on.
  • Aligning existing standards to a new set of Core Principles incorporated into the International Professional Practices Framework (IPPF) last year.

The proposed changes to the communications standard summarize required reporting from the CAE to the board and senior management about each engagement's objectives, scope and results. Additionally, changes to the quality assurance and improvement program clarify the annual requirement to report on the program and the current level of conformance.

Two new proposed standards were crafted in response to the profession's evolving scope of work. The first addresses the potential for objectivity to be impaired by internal audit performing assurance engagements in areas where it previously provided consulting services. The second involves the need to create safeguards against impairment of independence or objectivity when a CAE has or is expected to have roles and/or responsibilities outside of internal auditing. This is a topic that I have written and spoken about for several years. I was very encouraged to see that the IIASB chose to address this topic directly in the Standards.

Finally, changes are found throughout the Standards to align to the Core Principles added to the IPPF in 2015. The modifications focus primarily on two Core Principles: "Aligns with the strategies, objectives, and risks of the organization" and "Is insightful, proactive, and future-focused."

The survey currently is available online to internal audit practitioners and The IIA's more than 180,000 members worldwide, as well as regulators and other stakeholders in 10 languages including English, Chinese (simplified and traditional), and Spanish. Arabic and Italian will be added soon.

After the exposure period, comments will be reviewed and the IIASB hopes to approve final changes in the third quarter of 2016. The modified Standards will be announced on Oct. 1 and become effective Jan. 1, 2017, if all goes according to plan.

We all recognize that the work of internal auditing is challenging in its scope and complexity, but it is important for us to remember the value the Standards offer in providing practitioners a home base. This framework deserves our admiration and respect as well as our commitment to keep it as up-to-date and relevant as possible. Now is your chance to participate in the process to raise the bar for our profession yet again.

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