ComplianceRisk Management

Why Internal Audit Needs to Blow Its Own Horn

By January 12, 2021 No Comments

Like other functions, internal audit needs to publicize its value to senior executives and the broader corporation.

After the completion of a lengthy process audit at a multinational company, the chief audit executive (CAE) reported results to the owner of that process. After a cursory review, the process owner, also a senior executive, asked, “What else have you done?”

  • The CAE was somewhat taken aback. The audit took several months and ate up lots of FTE hours. But since it only resulted in a few findings, the audited executive thought there must be more that audit was working on.

A need for self-promotion. This led the CAE to question how familiar management is with audit’s work. “We have not done a good job of selling audit” to management, he said, adding that his task now was to “reeducate the management team about the value of internal audit.”

  • To be sure, audit departments do not need to prove or explain themselves to management. Most, if not all, report directly to the audit committee of the company’s board. Their budgets in most cases are growing and not shrinking.
  • Still, administratively they typically report to the CFO, so there is some explaining to do when it comes to budget allocations. Nonetheless, this auditor felt that management needed to know more about what internal audit (IA) does and the benefits it can bring.

Stepping up. At another company, the auditor has seemingly cracked the code when it comes to showing IA’s benefits. This company, a serial acquirer with a tight fist when it comes to budgets across the company, wanted to cut its external auditor budget by 15%. When its external auditor balked at the request, IA stepped up to fill in any gaps. This saved the company millions of dollars.

  • This same auditor took a close look at the company’s licensing relationships and found many of the deals out of date or companies out of compliance with the terms of their contracts. Thus, the IA team was able to claw back several million dollars in fees. The same was done with supplier performance agreements.
  • All of these efforts were well received by senior management and, best of all, the chief executive.

Best foot forward. While some IAs have struggled with promoting their skills and value to the rest of the company, in some cases, Covid has allowed them to shine. Many IAs, forced to change audit plans at the outset of the pandemic (not stopping or canceling audits, but slowing timelines), have been able to do extra work outside of their purview.

  • This includes assisting with Covid response, data analytics, accounting or lending out FTEs to help in other functions where there is a need. This showed other parts of the organization all the good IA can do.
  • Consulting is on the docket in 2021 for the first auditor. He said IA is going to work on and highlight “what the value is we can bring beyond the X amount of audits and findings,” which he hopes to accomplish by doing more consultative projects. 
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Justin Jones

Author Justin Jones

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