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They're Still Out There​​

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They are still out there. Who is “they”? They are the audit departments that are convinced it is perfectly fine to live in a past where internal audit tics and ties, fills in the blanks, completes ICQs, points out everything the auditee is doing wrong, and then goes on their merry way, secure in the belief that they have fought the good fight and have done everything they can possibly do within the limits of their responsibilities, their charter, and (sadly) their skills.

The sheer lack of vision exhibited by some audit departments still flabbergasts me. Here’s the latest case in point.

In a recent LinkedIn discussion, the following comment was posted. (And, before you even read the comment, let me quickly assure you that the comment was made by an internal auditor.) “Internal audit focus should be on cost savings that can be investigated in the production, inventories, and purchasing processes.”

This is an internal auditor talking about the roles and responsibilities of internal audit. Take a little time to wrap your head around this statement. Walk around it. Observe it from all angles. Examine all the nooks and crannies of its shortsightedness. Try to fathom the wrong-headedness — the utter and complete misunderstanding of what the profession of internal auditing is trying to accomplish — contained in this one profession-destroying sentence.

You want to know why there are C-suites, executive managers, and boards who feel internal audit is not an important part of their organizations? The answer is in those 19 words.

Do not get me wrong. I sincerely believe that part of internal audit’s role is, indeed, cost savings. But our value goes far beyond that.

If you’re unsure what that additional value is, just take a look at the Mission of Internal Audit that is now a part of The IIA’s International Professional Practice Framework: “To enhance and protect organizational value by providing risk-based and objective assurance, advice, and insight.”

Sure covers a lot more than “cost savings,” doesn’t it?

But there are audit shops out there that still have cost savings and expense reduction as their major focus. (Don’t believe me? How many of you have a metric for your department that is based on how much money you save the organization? I’m not saying it is a bad metric. But, if it is not surrounded and supported by other metrics that look at the broader value-adding aspects of internal audit, then you may be sending the wrong message to your stakeholders ... or, even worse, the right message.)

The audit department that limits itself to cost savings (not to mention limiting activities to production, inventories, and purchasing processes as in the comment we are discussing) will find itself outsourced quicker than the steno pool.

Ask yourself (ask your department, ask your audit department employees, ask your audit department leaders) what internal audit should be providing to its customers. And if the answer does not reflect all or a significant part of what is now included in The IIA’s Mission of Internal Audit, Core Principles for the Professional Practice of Internal Auditing, and Definition of Internal Auditing, then it is time for a big change.

That may be a change in the department’s focus. That may be a change in the department’s culture. Or it may be a change in where you want to work. (Warning, if your audit department has NOT embraced these concepts, you’ll probably be looking for a new job in short order, anyway.)

They’re still out there. Just make sure you and your department aren’t one of them.​


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