Internal Audit Awareness Month begins today, which celebrates and promotes the profession of Internal Auditors (yes, they get a whole month of glory!). The IIA, who run the campaign, aim to "dispel misperceptions of the profession, and enhance the business community’s knowledge of the essential role internal auditing plays in strong organisational governance, internal control, and effective risk management."
What is internal audit?
Internal audit involves assessing key risks to an organisation and recommending improvements to reduce these risks and ensure the organisation can achieve its goals. Auditors need to be objective, independent and act as a ‘critical friend’ to clients, discussing tough issues and suggesting improvements to systems and processes wherever possible.
Why is awareness important?
Awareness of the internal audit function is beneficial to organisations and also to auditors themselves; it aims to dispel myths about the profession, show the value of audit for reducing an organisation’s risk, and gain new talent by raising the profile of internal audit as a career choice.
Three common myths about internal auditors:
1. Internal auditors are accountants by training.
While external audit largely focuses on the organisations’ financial records, internal audit actually concentrates much more on business risks, processes and systems, compliance issues, and with helping to improve efficiency. A background in accounting may be beneficial, but the professions are different. The IIA suggest the key skills for internal auditors are: analytical/critical thinking ability, data mining skills, business acumen, and IT skills.
2. Auditors are nit-pickers and fault-finders.
It may seem the case when it’s time for your team’s audit, that they are there to find fault and to pick on the small things, but their key focus is on the key business risks and how these can be reduced by implementing controls where possible. An auditor’s goal is not to focus on the minor issues but to ensure that risks are being mitigated where possible, to contribute to the efficient running of the organisation.
3. Internal audit is the corporate “police function.”
Any auditor will tell you the importance of building a good rapport with clients to get the best results for all parties. Internal auditors act as a ‘critical friend’ to facilitate improvement within departments, rather than giving a harsh critique on current processes. The IIA state that “breaking down this stereotype is so important that most internal audit groups actively encourage clients to think of internal audit as a coach, not a cop.”