How can internal audit collaborate and still maintain independence?


By Ken Tysiac

Collaboration can be a difficult objective for internal auditors to fulfil. Many of their duties require independence and separation from the business units and functions they are required to review.

But demand for internal auditors to serve as strategic advisers is expected to grow, according to a recent EY report. And internal audit teams are expected to co-ordinate with a wide range of groups in organisations, although there are times when internal audit must be detached from strategic decision-making, according to a recent Internal Auditing Around the World report by global consulting firm Protiviti.

So while collaborating is seen as a necessity for internal audit, it’s not always easy – and not just because some internal auditors aren’t used to co-ordinating their activities with other groups. Collaboration is a two-way street, and organisational groups from the board level down need to adjust and include internal audit in their activities where appropriate, the Protiviti report says.

Business executives explain in the Protiviti report how working through the challenges to collaboration with internal audit has been worthwhile to their companies:

  • At French software designer Dassault Systèmes, corporate audit director Etienne Grobon said a collaborative approach gives him more visibility into key risks because people know him and trust him.
  • George Dooley, Visa’s chief audit executive, said collaboration helps his team move quickly.
  • Collaboration has helped US-based food producer and distributor General Mills become more efficient and eliminate duplication of work, according to global internal audit vice president Cathy Harris.

Enabling such collaboration while maintaining objectivity and independence, the report says, will help internal audit teams bring more value to businesses.

Ken Tysiac (ktysiac@aicpa.org) is a CGMA Magazine senior editor.

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