Increasingly in today’s environment and market place, public and private sector organisations are calling upon the skills of internal auditors to review internal processes at both strategic and operational levels.
Once, internal audit was perceived to be about auditing compliance with processes or key financial controls, or simply seen as an obligation or “tick-box” exercise for businesses and organisations. In response to increasing demand from progressive organisations over the last five years or so, the scope of Internal Audit in both the public and private sectors, has expanded dramatically. There are two main reasons for this.
Firstly, across the UK and Ireland, there has been a changing mentality of how clients perceive internal audit. Clients across both the public and private sectors, are requesting a much broader internal audit service, whether it be core internal audit, IT audit, cyber security, risk management, corporate governance, process reviews or LEAN reviews.
Dealing with ‘problem’ areas head on
Clients now wish to incorporate more operational areas within their internal audit plans, where previously they may have been resistant to this. Indeed more and more organisations and businesses are focusing their internal audit services on the areas of concern, rather than trying to avoid them being audited at all. Dealing with ‘problem’ areas head on allows for the identification of weaknesses or issues, and making achievable recommendations for improvement. Given capacity and resource constraints for many organisations and businesses, effective internal audit can be a cost effective method to addressing operational, process or financial issues. In addition, it provides organisations with the assurance of an independent opinion on the area or process being reviewed, while benefiting from knowledge sharing opportunities.
Secondly, advisors have developed their skills and the individual demands and needs of clients means that a one size fits all approach does not work. Leading advisors tailor their approach for every client, based on their exact needs, risks and wants.
A partnership approach tends to work best with advisors striving to provide services as a partner rather than a supplier. As a result, the focus has evolved to be on process improvement, supporting and advising clients, as well as providing assurance over key areas or controls.
Whilst internal audit advises and supports clients, it also acts as a challenge function. Those businesses and entities who get the most out of internal audit see it as a “critical friend”, there to support and advise, but who will also have the difficult conversations and raise issues that are identified. This approach is more time intensive, but experience and client feedback shows that it provides a much more effective service and adds more value to the client.
In summary, the scope of internal audit is expanding, and with it the breadth of services and support an internal audit team can provide and offer to organisations and businesses. Whilst remaining independent, this allows opportunities to work much more closely with clients and develop much stronger relationships, which is mutually beneficial to all parties.