​The Amazing Growth of Internal Auditing in the Middle East

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I am posting my blog this week from Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, where I am addressing IIA–UAE's 15th Annual Regional Internal Audit Conference.


In the 73 years since The Institute of Internal Auditors was founded, our profession has grown at a remarkable rate. But as with all occupations, internal auditing has had its ups and downs. The pace has never been steady and, at times, activity has been greater in some industries or geographic regions than in others.

Now and then, however, something happens that transcends our usual expectations for expansion and, in certain parts of the world, internal auditing takes a major step forward in a very short period of time. You already know that, in North America, we saw a major boost when a series of spectacularly large corporate bankruptcies led to enactment of the U.S. Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002. It's a sad truth that corporate malfeasance and fraud seem to spur internal audit growth more effectively than many of our successes at improving organizations' risk management and internal control systems.

But it's always good to see our profession prosper. And it's especially rewarding when we advance for the best possible reasons. That's what is happening today in the Middle East. Dedicated internal auditors are demonstrating their value, and management and boards of directors are taking notice.

The trend started about five years ago. At first, the signs were subtle: An off-hand remark at a conference about the great work a Middle East internal audit group was producing; the establishment of new IIA institutes in the region, or an especially favorable comment from an established IIA institute in the region.

These early indicators were significant, but they were also inconclusive. Today, however, there is hard evidence of a growing appreciation for internal auditing throughout the Middle East. It's the type of evidence that internal auditors love best: evidence in the form of numbers.

In the past year, membership in The IIA rose more than 100 percent in the Middle East. That's not only an astounding increase, it far and away outpaced anywhere else in the world. At the same time, we found that more than 65 percent of chief audit executives surveyed by The IIA are reporting both staffing and budget increases. What's more, internal audit staffing levels did not decrease at any Middle East company responding to our survey, and none of the internal audit groups experienced a budget cut in the past year. Barely a day goes by that I am not alerted to several new internal audit vacancies being recruited in Dubai or other nearby commercial centers in the Middle East.

There are likely a host of reasons why internal auditing is doing so well in the Middle East, but major factors include greater experience and education.

In the past four years, in fact, there was a 278 percent increase in the number of Middle East auditors receiving the Certified Internal Auditor (CIA) or other professional designations from The IIA. Much of the CIA growth has been the direct result of the CIA exam being translated into Arabic. In 2013 alone, record numbers of auditors based in the Middle East earned CIA, Certification in Risk Management Assurance, and Certified Financial Services Auditor designations.

So, to all the dedicated internal auditors in the Middle East, congratulations. Impressive statistics on certification demonstrate you are working hard to expand your skills, and gains in staffing and budgets prove your hard work is paying off.

How are you seeing improvements in internal audit functions and the profession in the Middle East? I'd love to hear about your experiences.​

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