Overcoming the 5 classic myths about internal auditing

Overcoming 5 myths about internal auditing
June 25, 2012
From planning and scoping to testing and reporting, the pressure on internal audit teams to improve relationships and reputation is increasing. A recent article from IIA CEO Richard Chambers makes this exact point and outlines the five classic myths this team is facing. This blog by Robert Berry provides insight, from a former internal auditor himself, on how to practically overcome the five classic myths.

In a recent article, Richard Chambers, IIA CEO, identified the following "Five Classic Myths About Internal Auditing”:

  • Internal auditors are accountants by training
  • Auditors are nit-pickers and fault-finders
  • It’s best not to tell the auditors anything unless they specifically ask
  • Internal auditors follow a cycle in selecting their audit targets and use standard checklists, so they can audit the same things the same way each time.
  • Internal audit is the corporate "police function"

These myths are spot on. But how do we overcome them? It's not easy, but here are some of my thoughts:

Myth #1: Internal auditors are accountants by training.

To overcome this myth, create a diverse staff. Hire individuals with diverse backgrounds. Hospital auditors do it all the time. Many have registered nurses on staff who perform anything from billing and coding audits to hospital operation audits.

Train alongside your clients when possible. Your clients train to become better at what they do. So should you. While audit specific training is definitely important, so are your client’s specific tasks. For example, I am currently in higher education. Upon entering the industry, one of my first tasks was to enroll in a course. I need to experience our services as a customer. This on-the-job training was valuable.

Myth #2: Auditors are nit-pickers and fault-finders.

Part of what we do is to evaluate environments. The focus is on preserving, protecting and continuous improvement. We must communicate this in our actions. Therefore, it's important to prioritize projects and issues we present to management. Keeping the end goal in mind—the betterment of the organization—can help reduce this myth.

Myth #3: It’s best not to tell the auditors anything unless they specifically ask.

This doesn't help in the long run. It's up to us to build a relationship based on trust and respect so that our clients can have honest and open dialog with us. This is one of the hardest myths to overcome because there's no quick solution. We must develop our soft skills and use them effectively.

Myth #4: Internal auditors follow a cycle in selecting their audit targets and use standard checklists, so they can audit the same things the same way each time.

This myth can be broken by simply changing the way we audit. If the audit plan includes the same areas, then our clients will believe Myth #4. To overcome this, do something different. Get out of your comfort zone. Try auditing something in your organization that you have never touched before. For example, try auditing your organization's social media strategy and operations—a fairly new risk facing many organizations. An audit done right in this area can disprove Myth #1 and Myth #4.

Myth #5: Internal audit is the corporate “police function.”

Shattering this myth is easy. This is probably the only easy one on the list. Simply put, check your attitude. Present yourself as a collaborative partner through your actions and you will become one.

This article is by Robert Berry from thatauditguy.com.

Robert Berry

About the author

Robert (That Audit Guy) Berry is a risk, compliance and auditing advocate, educator and innovator. He helps good professionals become better by creating articles, web services and training that allow them to expand their knowledge network.